Pixel Scroll 6/11/21 The Scrolled Grimoire, It Ain’t What It Used To Be

(1) YOUR VIRTUAL VACAY. Paul Weimer has transplanted the famous Mind Meld feature, a roundtable discussion of the tropes, themes, politics, and future of genre fiction that solicits answers from writers, editors, readers and fans, to its new home at Nerds of a Feather. The topic of“Mind Meld : One Spot Holodeck” is —

Congratulations. You have been given a Star Trek style holodeck, fully capable otherwise, you can bring in anyone you want, hold a roomful of people but not an entire Worldcon in it,  but you can only program it to be fixed to one time and place or the verse of one fictional work or series. 

Where/what do you program your holodeck for? (Star Wars and Star Trek are off the table!)

Playing in the virtual sandbox are Fonda Lee, Beverly Bambury, Cora Buhlert, Arturo Serrano, Mikaela Lind, Hannah (H. M.) Long, Claire O’Dell, Catherine Lundoff, Maurice Broaddus, K.B. Wagers, Elizabeth Bear, Camestros Felapton, Andrew Hiller, K. B. Spengler, Nancy Jane Moore, and Shelly Parker-Chan.

(2) THE OTHER SON. Melinda Snodgrass watched the first episode of the new Disney+ series and was inspired to discuss “Loki : Or What Makes A Fascinating Villain”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

… I love the Thor movie because it felt so magnificently Shakespearian in its feel and tone. I often use it when I teach to illustrate theme versus plot. Because really at its base the film Thor is about an abusive father, Odin, who destroys his children and ultimately his entire family by pitting his two sons against each other. Odin’s line in the opening scene to his two young sons sums it all up. “Only one of you can ascend to the throne. But both of you were born to be kings.”

(3) TUTTLE RECOMMENDS. [Item by Meredith.] The Guardian has an article today that people might enjoy agreeing/disagreeing with: Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup”.

Tuttle covers Widowland by CJ Carey; Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir; This Fragile Earth by Susannah Wise; Rabbits by Terry Miles; This Eden by Ed O’Loughlin; and The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques.

(4) OTTONE Q&A. In “A Point of Pride: Interview with Robert P. Ottone”, the Horror Writers Association blog continues its Pride Month series.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I feel that horror is such an expansive sandbox to play in. I like to say that reading a well-written family drama is fascinating and certainly draws you in, but imagine that same family drama, just with a haunted house thrown in. That’s even better. Horror allows the writer to indulge in the ugliness of the world while doing so in a therapeutic, relatively safe way.

(5) ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter and John King Tarpinian witnessed contestant stumble over these science fictional answers on last night’s Jeopardy! – both in the category of “Book-borne words & phrases.”

Answer: William Gibson coined this term that now refers to the internet in his short story “Burning Chrome.”

Wrong questions: “What is the information superhighway?”; “What is the world-wide web?”

Correct question: What is cyber-space?

Mayim Bialik is this week’s guest host. Her website is called Grok Nation. That wasn’t enough of a clue for last night’s contestants when they saw this answer.

Wrong question: “Who is Huxley?”

Right question: Who is Robert A. Heinlein?

And there was another gap in their knowledge tonight —

Category: 1930s Literature

Answer: After a plane crash in the Himalayas, 4 people end up in Shangri-La in this 1933 novel.

Wrong question: “What is Paradise Regained?”

Right question: What is “Lost Horizon?”

(6) BARRETT OBIT. Actress Claudia Barrett, remembered for her work in Fifties sci-fi movie Monster Robot, died April 30 at the age of 91.   

… In an image remembered on countless “Worst Movies” lists and in the minds of 1950s drive-in theatergoers, a screaming Barrett is carried off, Fay Wray-style, by the title creature of Robot Monster, a big, hairy alien that looks like a stuntman in a cheap gorilla suit with a diving helmet on its head. Which is, more or less, exactly what it was. As portrayed by stuntman George Barrows, the creature was named Ro-Man, and is generally regarded as the ultimate in 1950s low-budget monsterdom.

…Sci-fi immortality came in 1953, when she was cast as Alice, daughter in the last surviving family in 25-year-old producer-director Phil Tucker’s post-apocalyptic Robot Monster. Costarring George Nader and shot in black and white 3-D, Robot Monster was shot mostly in L.A.’s Bronson Canyon over four days with a reported budget of $16,000.

(7) RILEY OBIT. Not genre but still noteworthy: Irish women’s fiction author Lucinda Riley has died of cancer aged only 55. Her historical women’s fiction novels were hugely popular, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Scandinavia: “Lucinda Riley’s family announce that she has died after a four year battle with cancer” at Pan Macmillan.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 11, 1982 — On this day in 1982, E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial premiered. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. Production credits were shared by Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It was written by Melissa Mathison. It starred Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas. Special effects were by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren. Critics universally loved it, the box office was phenomenal and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-four percent rating. It would finish third to Blade Runner for Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at ConStellation. 
  • June 11, 1993 — In 1993, eleven years after E.T. came out, Jurassic Park premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. Its  based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It starred Samuel R. Jackson, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. Like E.T., It was an overwhelming hit with the critics and the box office was quite stellar. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a ninety-one percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 11, 1572 – Ben Jonson.  Among much else he and Inigo Jones (1573-1672) composed masques, a theatrical artform now long asleep through abandonment of its circumstances.  At the court of a monarch, or some lesser court, elaborate scenery was built, in and around which elaborately costumed actors played, sometimes in mime, with music and dance, sometimes including courtiers.  Jonson wrote and acted, Jones designed and built.  For us at least Oberon, the Faery PrinceThe Lady of the Lake with Merlin and Arthur, The Devil Is an Ass.  We can and should read and imagine them (you can look at this Website to see text); if they were filmed and you saw them it would not be the same as if twenty or thirty people performed for you and your friends at one of your palaces.  (Died 1637) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1815 – Julia Cameron.  Pioneer photographer, started at age 48, made portraits and allegories.  She said “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty.”  Do find her portraits; but this is an SF Weblog, so here are The South-West WindProspero (from Shakespeare’s Tempest), and The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere which Bloomsbury used for its 1999 printing of The Princess Bride.  (Died 1879) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1929 — Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”, “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films such as Burn, Witch, Burn which was nominated for a Hugo at Discon I (no award was given that year), 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available. Yes, I’m pleased to say, including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1933 — Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course he has more genre roles than that, starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by the already noted Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film whose cast also included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1934 – Jerry Uelsmann, age 87.  Used photomontage long before Adobe Photoshop.  Guggenheim and Nat’l Endowment for the Arts fellowships.  Lucie Award.  Here is a Boat and Moon.  Here is a Tree Goddess.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1945 — Adrienne Barbeau, 76. She’s in the Swamp Thing, also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair that never got wrapped up properly. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites. Anyone here read these? (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1946 – Barry Levin.  For thirty-five years his antiquarian bookshop in Santa Monica was a pearl beyond price.  Here is an interview with Scott Laming of AbeBooks.  Here is an appreciation by Scott Haffner of Haffner Press – scroll down; BL is third from top.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1959 – Galen Tripp, age 62.  Active fan in Los Angeles, organizing the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) 50th Anniversary banquet; given the Evans-Freehafer, LASFS’ service award; moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where he is BASFA (Bay Area Science Fiction Ass’n) sergeant-at-arms, a position BASFA takes about as seriously as LASFS.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1968 — Justina Robson, 53. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series which I loved. I’ve not started her Natural History series but have not added it to my digital To Be Read list, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. I was surprised that she hasn’t picked up any Hugo nominations so far. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1970 — Jane Goldman, 51. She’s a English screenwriter, author and producer who’s done a lot of work but I’m going to list but a few of her works including the screenplay for the Hugo winning Stardust, the same for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, based on the Ransom Riggs novel, The Limehouse Golem screenplay off Peter Ackroyd’s novel and a screenplay on spec off Bill Willingham’s Fables series that never got financed. She was also a fan of the X-Files as she wrote two volumes of The X-Files Book of the Unexplained. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1971 — P. Djèlí Clark, 50. I’m very much enjoying A Master of Djinn which will make my Hugo nominations list next year. It follows his “The Haunting of Tram Car 015” novella and “The Angel of Khan el-Khalili” and “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”, short stories, all set in his Dead Djinn universe. I’ve not read his “Black Drums” novella, nor the “Ring Shout” novella, so welcome opinions on them. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1993 – Anna Dittmann, age 28.  Digital illustrator, once in San Francisco, now in Scotland.  Here is her cover for Patricia Ward’s Skinner Luce.  Here is her cover for the May 2018 Apex.  This interview with Affinity Spotlight has images and comment.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full shows the moment Superman’s job interview went off the rails.

(11) FREE DOWNLOAD. Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword and Sorcery Issue dropped today on the 85th anniversary of the death of Robert E. Howard. Download the issue free at the link — 16 tales of modern sword and sorcery, including Cora Buhlert’s story “The Gate of Mist” (page 103). The intro reads –

Buhlert’s uplifting tale of an ancient order of warrior-monks fighting to keep a tenacious evil at bay deploys an uncommon element in sword and sorcery today: a budding romance between two men becoming warriors together. The contemplative mountain setting provides a unique and memorable foe: monstrous forms of living mist.

(12) BUSIEK FAN. Christos Gage, whose writing credits include Daredevil Season 1 and such comics as Buffy and Spider-Man, ranks a familiar name high on this list:

(13) THE CAT WHO CAME BACK FROM NOTHING AT ALL. Caldecott Medal winner Sophie Blackall makes Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s new book sound irresistible in a review for the New York Times: “The Cat Came Back — All the Way From 16th-Century Rome”.

On any normal pre-Covid summer day, as many as 30,000 visitors craned their necks to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, one of the greatest achievements of Western art. I was not among them when I visited Rome a few years ago with my parents, who had already seen the ceiling and were not enthusiastic about waiting hours in line. I wasn’t among them the time before, with my toddlers, who were even less enthusiastic about lines. Nor did I see it as a backpacker in the late 1980s, when restorers were injecting polyvinylacetate resin into its cracks. From 1710 to 1713 the frescoes were cleaned with sponges dipped in Greek wine. In 1625 a dark patina was removed with damp bread. In 1511 the plaster was still wet and Michelangelo was standing on his scaffolding, painting, which is when “Da Vinci’s Cat,” by the Newbery honoree Catherine Gilbert Murdock (“The Book of Boy”), begins….

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. In Octothorpe episode 33, “Jigsaw Psychoanalysis” “John Coxon can’t cope with any, Alison Scott can cope with one, and Liz Batty has excellent mental health. We have lots of lovely locs, before we discuss fanzines and various conventions’ latest news.”

(15) AVOIDING TOXICITY. Pokémon Detective Pikachu and Addams Family 2 screenwriter Dan Hernandez made an interesting social media decision. Thread starts here.

(16) WEAK SHOWING. The Washington Posts’s Alexandra Petri hosts an op-ed from one of the X-Men: “Magneto: These new ‘magnetic’ vaccine mutants are extremely disappointing”.

… I met the people who were saying that metal objects now stuck to them because of their vaccines and gave them a whole recruitment speech about how they were the next stage in evolution, but once I said the word “evolution,” they looked at me doubtfully. Then I asked them to show off their abilities, and — I hate to say this but, have you ever been at a friend’s amateur magic show, where the magic show is not going quite as was hoped, and there’s a lot of saying “hold on” and “wait, hang on” and “sorry” as they fail several times running to identify your card, and then a dead bird falls unprompted out of someone’s hat? Frankly, that would have been an improvement….

(17) ANCIENT POO REVEALS MODERN GUT BACTERIA CHANGE AND IS SUGGESTIVE OF HUMAN EVOLUTION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  We humans have changed over thousands of years, and our way of life has altered dramatically the past thousand years.  This is reflected in a number of ways, one of which is the type of bacteria we have in our intestine. 

It is known that the gut microbes in humans today living in industrial countries differs greatly to those living in non-industrial nations. For example, the guts of those living in industrial nations harbour microbes that tend to be more resistant to antibiotics.  The latest news is that a research collaboration has now compared the gut microbial community from modern humans with those that lived between a thousand and two thousand years ago. They managed to extract reasonable microbial genomes from 498 samples of ancient shite and poo found in the US and Mexico. 181 of these the researchers are confident of being of human gut origin. They then compared these with the genome of modern human gut microbial genomes. 

They found that all the ancient human gut microbes differed from those in modern humans living in industrialised countries. Instead, they were all similar to those in the present-day living in non-industrial nations. Further, in looking at the genetic variation in a specific bacterial species, Methanobrevibacter smithii, they were able to back-track and estimate its past evolution. Their limited analysis that it changed markedly between 75,000 years ago and 25,000 years ago. This was during the last glacial (the cold part of our current ice age) during which there was considerable diversity in small populations of our Homo species. This work lays open great potential in a new area of ancient poo science. This is not to be sniffed at.

(See Wibowo, M. C. et al (2021) Reconstruction of ancient microbial genomes from the human gut. Naturevol.594, p234-9 and a review paper Sonnenburg, J. L. & Olm, M. R. (2021) Ancient human faeces and gut microbes of the past. Naturevol.594, p182-3.)

Review article here. Primary research paper here.

(18) SOLAR FLYBY. From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive for June 11:

Image Credit & Copyright: Zev Hoover, Christian A. Lockwood, and Zoe Chakoian. Explanation: On June 10 a New Moon passed in front of the Sun. In silhouette only two days after reaching apogee, the most distant point in its elliptical orbit, the Moon’s small apparent size helped create an annular solar eclipse. The brief but spectacular annular phase of the eclipse shows a bright solar disk as a ring of fire when viewed along its narrow, northerly shadow track across planet Earth. Cloudy early morning skies along the US east coast held gorgeous views of a partially eclipsed Sun though. Rising together Moon and Sun are captured in a sequence of consecutive frames near maximum eclipse in this digital composite, seen from Quincy Beach south of Boston, Massachusetts. The serendipitous sequence follows the undulating path of a bird in flight joining the Moon in silhouette with the rising Sun.

(19) TWO TO BEAM UP. A Despicable Me cast member helps NBC Sports advertise the upcoming Olympics with its own work on the balance beam: “The Minions interrupt Simone Biles’ Olympic Training”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, John Coxon, Meredith, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 4/28/21 SecUnit Said “Stop It. Don’t Tempt Fate So Soon. We Have Five More Segments Of Sanctu’ry Moon.”

(1) CONVINCING DISNEY TO PAY. In“DisneyMustPay: authors form task force to fight for missing payments”, The Guardian’s Alison Flood tells how pressure is being applied to Disney.

A task force made up of science fiction and fantasy, romance, crime and horror authors has been formed in an attempt to persuade Disney into paying authors outstanding royalties for novelisations and comics relating to their properties, including Star Wars, Alien and Indiana Jones.

The so-called DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force includes major writers Neil Gaiman, Tess Gerritsen, Mary Robinette Kowal and Chuck Wendig among its members. It has been formed by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in partnership with the Author’s Guild, Horror Writers Association, National Writers Union, Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.

The author organisations came together after the SFWA became involved in the author Alan Dean Foster’s battle to get Disney to pay him royalties for his bestselling novelisations of Star Wars and Alien. Foster was asked to write his novelisation of Star Wars: A New Hope by George Lucas himself, which was published in 1976. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, it bought the rights to the Star Wars novel, while Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019 meant it also bought rights to Foster’s novelisations of Alien, Aliens and Alien 3….

But despite the books still being in print, Foster claimed that Disney was not paying him royalties for them and that he’d had to go public after the company ignored multiple queries from his agents, legal representatives and the SFWA. The latter claimed that Disney had argued that it had purchased the rights, but not the obligations of the contract.

(2) SLF OLDER WRITERS GRANT. The Speculative Literature Foundation will be taking applications for the SLF $1000 Older Writers Grant from May 1-31. Complete guidelines here.

The SLF $1000 Older Writers Grant is awarded annually, since 2004, to a writer who is fifty years of age or older at the time of grant application, and is intended to assist such writers who are just starting to work at a professional level. We are currently offering a $1000 grant annually, to be used as each writer determines will best assist his or her work.

This grant will be awarded by a committee of SLF staff members on the basis of merit. If awarded the grant, the recipient agrees to provide a brief excerpt from their work, and an autobiographical statement describing themselves and their writing (500-1000 words) for our files, and for possible public dissemination on our website.

This grant, as with all SLF grants, is intended to help writers working with speculative literature. Speculative literature is a catch-all term meant to inclusively span the breadth of fantastic literature, encompassing literature ranging from hard science fiction to epic fantasy to ghost stories to horror to folk and fairy tales to slipstream to magical realism to modern myth-making — and more. Any piece of literature containing a fabulist or speculative element would fall under our aegis, and would potentially be work that we would be interested in supporting.

(3) IT’S ABOUT TO HATCH. Melinda Snodgrass invites readers to look over her shoulder as she explains “How I Plot”.

I mentioned on Twitter that I was getting ready to outline or break two new novels, and a follower asked if I could describe my process. It ended up being a really looong Tweet thread so I thought I would pull it all together here for folks who might not be on Twitter. I always outlined from the time I first started writing, I think it was a function of having been a lawyer and knowing that a brief has to take a judge or a jury to a certain conclusion so structure is important. I’m also the type of person who likes to have an itinerary when I travel and hotels booked in advance. But it wasn’t until I got my first job in Hollywood that I truly learned how to “break a story”. Ira Behr, Rick Manning and Hans Beimler were my teachers and they were very good ones. So without further ado….

First, I never start anything unless I know the ending. I don’t mean the wrap up, falling action, but the actual exciting climax. The next thing I ask myself is “What is the theme of this book?” What is it I want to impart about the human condition? The human heart in conflict with itself as William Faulkner wrote.

My short hand for this is “Plot is the shit that happens. Theme is why it matters.”…

(4) CHRIS GARCIA’S SFF FILM PODCASTS. Chris Garcia says he’s rediscovered a ton of episodes of his old podcasts and has started posting them on a new series of feeds.

  • Fantasy Film 101 is available from Pinecast or Apple. Its 16 episodes cover fantasy film history, emphasizing short films, foreign works, and the super-artsy.

(5) JOHN HODGMAN WEIGHS IN ON TIME TRAVEL CONTROVERSY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is John Hodgman’s column from the April 18 New York Times Magazine.

Tony; “My son read that the director James Gunn’s favorite time-travel movie is A Christmas Carol.  That isn’t time travel!  Please find against Scrooge, my son, and James Gunn, just to be sure.  (P.S.  I was mistaken.  Apparently, it was Robert Zemeckis who said this.”

Hodgman:  “I had never thought of Scrooge’s big night as time travel!  And for that reason I find against you.  Back To The Future is wonderful but only one template for time travel in movies.  There’s the multiple timelines concept, as in Avengers:  Endgame, which would account, say, for an alternate universe in which Robert Zemeckis, director of Back To The Future, could be wrong about time travel.  But as with all these stories, they are designed to inspire imagination, not stamp it out as you seek to do with your own Tiny Tim.  G Buy your son the biggest goose in town as damages.”

(6) AND THAT’S NOT ALL! [Item by Daniel Dern.] The new season (starts May 2) of DC Legends Of Tomorrow looks like a wild whacky ride! Watch the trailer even if you currently don’t plan to watch the show! And io9’s post “Legends of Tomorrow Season 6 Trailer: Aliens, Disney, Reality TV” says that beyond what the trailer shows, the season will include other references —

… And that’s not all! Entertainment Weekly confirms there will also be a Clue episode, an ALF episode (because of course there is), and, according to showrunner Phil Klemmer, “another episode that’s virtually all Constantine (Matt Ryan) in the Spanish Civil War, and that could just as well be from the Constantine TV show,” which sounds completely awesome….

(7) FIRM GRASP ON THE CATNIP. In“Timothy Reviews The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin” at Camestros Felapton, Timothy the Talking Cat propounds literary truths about a great classic that were previously unsuspected by any human being. But fairly obvious to a cat, evidently.

Greetings, salutations and the assorted lyrics of Hello, Goodbye by the mop-headed foursome from Liverpool to you all. I am, once again, your inimitable host and master of ceremonies, Timothy the Talking Cat esquire, who shall be taking you on a journey into the foundational texts of modern scientifiction….

(8) IMMERSIVE WHO. From a Digital Spy report: “Doctor Who – John Barrowman and David Bradley for Time Fracture”.

Doctor Who‘s John Barrowman and David Bradley are set to reprise their roles for the theatrical event Time Fracture.

The pair, who play Captain Jack Harkness and the First Doctor on the BBC sci-fi series respectively, have recorded cameo appearances for the Immersive Everywhere event.

Time Fracture is set to take place at Immersive | LDN in London and will put fans in the middle of a new Doctor Who story set at the time of the Blitz.

(9) COLLINS OBIT. Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins died April 28. Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk had this to say:

“Today the nation lost a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration in astronaut Michael Collins. As pilot of the Apollo 11 command module – some called him ‘the loneliest man in history’ – while his colleagues walked on the Moon for the first time, he helped our nation achieve a defining milestone. He also distinguished himself in the Gemini Program and as an Air Force pilot.

“Michael remained a tireless promoter of space. ‘Exploration is not a choice, really, it’s an imperative,’ he said. Intensely thoughtful about his experience in orbit, he added, ‘What would be worth recording is what kind of civilization we Earthlings created and whether or not we ventured out into other parts of the galaxy.’…”

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

  • April 28 National Superhero Day. Marvel, naturally, celebrated by advertising a forthcoming production.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 28, 1946 — On this night in 1946, The Shadow’s “Dreams of Death” episode first aired. It starred Lloyd Lamble (of Quatermass fame) as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow with Lyndall Barbour as Margot Lane and Lloyd Berrill as The Announcer. The Shadow in the radio series was quite different from the printed version as he was given the power to “cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him”. This was at odds with the pulp novel character who relied solely on stealth and his guns to get the job done. Likewise Margo Lane was a radio creation that would later be added to the pulps. You can hear the episode here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 28, 1840 Palmer Cox. He was known for The Brownies, his series of humorous books and comic strips about the troublesome but generally well meaning sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book for some forty years starting in the 1870s. Due to the immense popularity of his Brownies, one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. (Died 1924.) (CE) 
  • Born April 28, 1910 – Sam Merwin.  Edited FantasticStartlingThrillingWonder, later Fantastic Universe; for a while editor of Satellite, associate editor of Galaxy; his letter columns were lively; he generally improved our field.  Six novels, six dozen shorter stories for us; also romance and detective fiction, under various names.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1914 – Phil High.  Working thirty years as a bus driver did not prevent,  may have helped, his writing a dozen novels, fourscore shorter stories.  See here.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1917 Robert Cornthwaite. Actor in such Fifties films as The Thing From Another WorldThe War of the WorldsMen Into Space and Destination Space. He would be active well in the Twentieth Century in such productions as The Twilight ZoneVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaColossus: The Forbin Project The Six Million Dollar ManBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and White Dwarf. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born April 28, 1926 – Jim Bama, age 95.  Fourscore covers, a few interiors for us; interviewed by Vincent Di Fate in SF Chronicle.  Outside our field, Westerns, sports, commercial art.  Here is The 480.  Here is V.  Here is He Could Stop the World.  Illustrators Hall of Fame.  Artbooks The Art of JBThe Western Art of JBJB, American Realist with introduction by Harlan Ellison.  [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1926 – Bill Blackbeard.  One short story that I know of; correspondent of AmazingFantasy TimesRiverside QuarterlyWeird Tales; fanziner, in various apas including The Cult.  Extraordinary collector of comics in newspapers and otherwise, eventually 75 tons; he produced 200 books, and that ain’t the half of it.  See here (note by Our Gracious Host), here (Fancyclopedia 3), here (The Comics Journal).  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She began played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. Though she had an uncredited role in the original The War of the Worlds which was her first genre role as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here as reviewed by Kage’s sister Kathleen. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for a night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born April 28, 1959 – Fran Dowd, age 62.  Chaired Eastercon 49; with husband John Dowd active in Eastercons and Novacons; F & J both Fan Guests of Honour at Eastercon 61.  Sofa, i.e. chair when we need one, of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy Society.  Posted her Books Read in 2020 here.  [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1970 – Danielle Ackley-McPhail, age 51.  Nine novels, five dozen shorter stories, a dozen poems; a score of anthologies with various co-editors. Member and supporter of Broad Universe.  Was at the last known Lunacon in 2017, then in 2019 HELIOsphere.  She and husband Mike McPhail publish ESpec Books.  [JH]
  • Born April 28, 1971 Chris Young, 50. Bryce Lynch in the Max Headroom series which I still hold is of the best SF series ever done. The only other genre I think he’s are two horror films, The Runestone and Warlock: The Armageddon. Unless you call voice roles in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue genre… (CE) 
  • Born April 28, 1982 Samantha Lockwood, 39. Daughter of Gary Lockwood of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame. And she apparently was in yet another video Trek fanfic though this may not have ever gotten done before Paramount squashed them, Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time. There’s a trailer but no actual episode that I can find, so her role in Sci-Fighters which as Girlfriend is her only genre role. (CE)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side involves what happens when aliens are the ones posing a familiar nature question.
  • Dracula said, “I never drink…wine.” The zombies in Bliss say something else.

(14) SUPER PRESSURE. “’What if Superman was your dad?’ Comics legend Mark Millar on Jupiter’s Legacy” – a profile in The Guardian.

… Jupiter’s Legacy is based on Millar and artist Frank Quitely’s 2013 cross-generational saga about rifts in a super-powered family, whose conflicting politics and ideologies manifest themselves as a global power struggle, causing significant collateral damage. “People expected it to be like Kick-Ass or Kingsman,” he says, “which are quite nihilistic, really violent and ironic, whereas this show is very sincere. Kick-Ass is a pastiche of superheroes, but Jupiter’s Legacy is a love letter. The big question is: is it ethically correct, if you have the power to save the world, to stand back and do nothing?”

… The series contains what Millar calls a “boomer versus millennial argument”. This is reflected mostly through the Sampson family: Sheldon (AKA The Utopian) and Grace (AKA Lady Liberty) are the elder, age-defying leaders of The Union, a paramilitary team that has symbolised the American ideal ever since they gained their superpowers during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Cut to the present day and we find their children, Chloe and Brandon, are increasingly disillusioned by their parents’ code and expectations. “Superman is the best guy you could possibly have,” says Millar, “but imagine if he was your dad? That’s the idea with The Utopian, who the whole world loves. But what does that mean for your children? Because the pressures are incredible.”

Daniel P. Dern adds:

Like many-to-most supercapes these days, the issues of power/authority along with “hard to have a life when you’re a cape” fuel this. It’s not as extreme as The Boys.

Mark Millar has written bunches of superhero comics (including an entire publishing brand of his own creations).

Frank Quitely is one of my favorite comic artists. For example, All-Star Superman (1-12), Flex Mentallo (1-4), a great run on New X-Men.

Jupiter’s Legacy is based on a manageable-to-read # of comics — 24 issues across 5 books/volumes, plus 10 issues of JUPITER’S CIRCLE, a prequel series.

Wanna read before, after or during watching:

  • Library-e-borrow LEGACY books 1-4 via HooplaDigital
  • Buy the individual comic issues or the collected-into-books
  • Borrow the books from your library
  • Buy & e-read via Kindle, ComiXology.

I enjoyed the comics; I’m ready to watch the show and see how it goes.

(15) STRETCH RUN. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] After achieving all the basic goals on flights 1–3, Ingenuity is now ready for a little stretch. Stretch goal, that is. Flight 4 will go further, faster, and take more photos than ever before. As for what might happen on flight 5, project Chief Engineer Bob Balaram said, “We have been kicking around several options regarding what a flight five could look like. But ask me about what they entail after a successful flight four.” “With Goals Met, NASA to Push Envelope with Ingenuity Mars Helicopter”.

… The fourth Ingenuity flight from Wright Brothers Field, the name for the Martian airfield on which the flight took place, is scheduled to take off Thursday, April 29, at 10:12 a.m. EDT (7:12 a.m. PDT, 12:30 p.m. local Mars time), with the first data expected back at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at 1:21 p.m. EDT (10:21 a.m. PDT).

“From millions of miles away, Ingenuity checked all the technical boxes we had at NASA about the possibility of powered, controlled flight at the Red Planet,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Future Mars exploration missions can now confidently consider the added capability an aerial exploration may bring to a science mission.”

The Ingenuity team had three objectives to accomplish to declare the technology demo a complete success: They completed the first objective about six years ago when the team demonstrated in the 25-foot-diameter space simulator chamber of JPL that powered, controlled flight in the thin atmosphere of Mars was more than a theoretical exercise. The second objective – to fly on Mars – was met when Ingenuity flew for the first time on April 19. The team surpassed the last major objective with the third flight, when Ingenuity rose 16 feet (5 meters), flying downrange 164 feet (50 meters) and back at a top speed of 6.6 feet per second (2 meters per second), augmenting the rich collection of knowledge the team has gained during its test flight campaign.

“When Ingenuity’s landing legs touched down after that third flight, we knew we had accumulated more than enough data to help engineers design future generations of Mars helicopters,” said J. “Bob” Balaram, Ingenuity chief engineer at JPL. “Now we plan to extend our range, speed, and duration to gain further performance insight.”…

(16) THE HOLE MOON CATALOG. The New York Times echoes an artist’s question: “Why Aren’t More Moon Craters Named for Women?” Illustrations at the link.

The moon’s surface is pockmarked with craters, the relics of violent impacts over cosmic time. A few of the largest are visible to the naked eye, and a backyard telescope reveals hundreds more. But turn astronomical observatories or even a space probe on our nearest celestial neighbor, and suddenly millions appear.

Bettina Forget, an artist and researcher at Concordia University in Montreal, has been drawing lunar craters for years. Ms. Forget is an amateur astronomer, and the practice combines her interests in art and science. “I come from a family of artists,” she said. “I had to fight for a chemistry set.”

Moon craters are named, according to convention, for scientists, engineers and explorers. Some that Ms. Forget draws have familiar names: Newton, Copernicus, Einstein. But many do not. Drawing craters with unfamiliar names prompted Ms. Forget to wonder: Who were these people? And how many were women?

“Once this question embeds itself in your mind, then you’ve got to know,” she said.

Ms. Forget pored over records of the International Astronomical Union, the organization charged with awarding official names to moon craters and other features on worlds around the solar system. She started underlining craters named for women.

“There was not much to underline,” Ms. Forget said.

Of the 1,578 moon craters that had been named at that time, only 32 honored women (a 33rd was named in February)….

(17) EIGHTIES FLICKS. “80s Sci-Fi Films Explored in Trailer For The Nostalgic Documentary In Search Of Tomorrow”GeekTyrant tells why it’s worth watching.

A new trailer has been released for the upcoming documentary In Search of Tomorrow, which taps into the nostalgia of the sci-fi films of the 80s. For any of you who grew up in the 80s and enjoyed these films, this is the kind of doc that you can truly appreciate.

The film comes from journalist and filmmaker David A. Weiner and it’s a “four-hour-plus retrospective of ’80s sci-fi movies featuring interviews with actors, directors, writers, SFX experts, and composers.” They have over 75+ interviews and there are a lot of stories and revelations that come to light….

(18) SPOILERS MAYBE? Anthony Mackie was on Colbert last night to discuss being the new Captain America and to marvel at a piece of The Falcon swag Colbert acquired. “’Humbling And Exciting’ – Anthony Mackie On Becoming Captain America”.

(19) COLBERT (ON FRESH AIR) TALKS ABOUT HIS INTRO TO SF & F. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Among other things. The SF stuff starts around minute 30, where he names a handful of authors that many Filers will know, including a few that you rarely hear in mainstream conversations, like A.E. Van Vogt  Also, how Joe Biden is arguably (my word not his or Terri’s) part of his “origin” story going from playing a character to being a (night show) host as himself. “Stephen Colbert On Missing His Live Audience And Making Comedy A Family Business” on NPR.

On why he turned to sci-fi and fantasy in his grief when his brothers and father were killed in a plane crash when he was a kid

Anything is possible [in fantasy stories]. Often it’s a young man who finds himself with extraordinary powers that he didn’t have at the beginning of the story. There’s a “chosen one” in fantasy stories. Often there’s a missing father figure — if they’re not just orphans outright. … I think being able to make  an alternate world where there are new rules, or the character who you identify with can make his own rules, maybe even bring back the dead or make things impossible possible … I think that’s related to being in a constant state of grief and anxiety and needing a place to be able to escape to.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, BravoLimaPoppa, Martin Morse Wooster, IanP, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lenora Rose.]

Pixel Scroll 3/9/21 Forty And Twenty Novels Added To The To-Read Piles

(1) MONSTROUS EMOTION. Sonny Bunch, in a Washington Post opinion piece, says “‘WandaVision’ punted on its most interesting idea about grief”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

In the eighth episode of “WandaVision,” the Disney Plus series featuring Marvel Cinematic Universe witch Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), her resurrected partner and android, Vision (Paul Bettany), and a lot of clever riffs on classic sitcom tropes, one line seems to have struck a chord: “What is grief, if not love persevering?” After a year of living under the threat of a pandemic, it seems viewers were looking for art that dealt with loss — and didn’t involve putting in the work of reading Russian literature.But the rhapsodizing over that bit of dialogue concealed a larger, more difficult, point. In the end, “WandaVision” punted on its most interesting idea about grief: that wallowing in it can turn people into monsters….

(2) HYBRID OF DESTINY. “How Octavia E. Butler Reimagines Sex and Survival” by Julian Lucas in The New Yorker.

…The nineties were a breakout decade. Frustrated by publishers’ refusals to send her on book tours, she signed with an independent press, which promoted her work to Black and feminist booksellers. “Parable of the Sower” won critical acclaim, and in 1995 Butler became the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur grant. The honor coincided with a growing interest in how Black writers, artists, and musicians drew on the dislocation of the past in critically reflecting on the future. The critic Mark Dery called it “Afrofuturism,” and Butler has become its most widely recognized literary avatar.

Perhaps her greatest talent was the clear evocation of thinking in a crisis. The thrill of her fiction lies in its learn-or-die urgency, conveyed in a streamlined prose of situational awareness. The brinkmanship of the Reagan era inspired her standout Xenogenesis trilogy, collected in the volume “Lilith’s Brood.” (Ava DuVernay is producing a TV series based on the first installment, “Dawn.”) It begins in a womblike cell on a living spaceship, where Lilith Iyapo, one of the only survivors of a nuclear war, waits for her captor-saviors to show themselves. They are part of a galactic diaspora of tentacled bipedal “gene traders,” the Oankali, who propose a merger of the species. The scheme is not only the price they exact for repopulating Earth but a biological necessity. “We are committed to the trade as your body is to breathing,” one explains. “We were overdue for it when we found you. Now it will be done—to the rebirth of your people and mine.” Lilith is to be the first mother of this hybrid species, and an evangelist for Oankali-human interbreeding to fellow-survivors, many of whom consider her a traitor….

(3) JUSTICE LEAGUE TRAILER PARK. Comicbook.com introduces the video: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League Cyborg Trailer Released”.

HBO Max has revealed the new trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice Leaguethis time spotlighting Cyborg. This latest trailer follows previous trailers focusing on BatmanSupermanAquaman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash. 

(4) SUPERTROOPER. Christine Feehan, in “Six Movies (and One TV Show) Featuring Genetically Engineered Soldiers” on Crimereads gives her recommendations for favorite works with bionic supersoldiers.

…The soldier or hero who can rush in and save the day because of his super skills is a common trope in film. I’d like to share with you my top five favorite characters from stories about super soldiers whose ultra-abilities have been the result of DNA experiments, secret government training, or a means of surviving the situation they find themselves in….

(5) JUSTER OBIT. Norton Juster, best-known as author of The Phantom Tollbooth (illustrated by Jules Feiffer), died March 8. The Independent is one of many outlets with the AP story: “Norton Juster, ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ author, dead at 91”.

Norton Juster, the celebrated children’s author who fashioned a world of his own in the classic “The Phantom Tollbooth” and went on to write such favorites as “The Dot and the Line” and “Stark Naked,” has died at 91.

Juster’s death was confirmed Tuesday by a spokesperson for Random House Children’s Books, who did not immediately provide details. Juster’s friend and fellow author Mo Willems tweeted Tuesday that Juster “ran out of stories” and died “peacefully” the night before.

Andrew Liptak paid tribute at Tor.com “The Phantom Tollbooth Author Norton Juster Has Died at the Age of 91”

…While beloved as a children’s book author, Juster’s primary vocation throughout his life was architecture, telling an interviewer that “I grew up in architecture, my father was an architect, my brother, who is four and a half years old, was training and then became an architect. I had no idea I was every going to be a writer or anything like that.” After attending college, he joined the US Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, which he described as a “terrific experience,” but in which “a lot of your time is wasted.” To help pass the time, he began drawing and writing, and was chastised by his CO for it.

After leaving the Navy, he joined a New York architectural firm, and began to think about writing a book that would teach children about cities. He ultimately got a grant for the project, and began writing. It didn’t go well: “I started with great energy and enthusiasm until I found myself waist-deep in stacks of 3-by-5 note cards, exhausted and dispirited,” He told NPR in 2011. “This is not what I wanted to do.” He began to think about another story, and “The Phantom Tollbooth came about because I was trying to avoid doing something else.”

While looking for that other story, he was inspired by a conversation he had with a boy about the notion of infinity, and began writing the story that would ultimately become The Phantom Tollbooth….

The New York Times report is here. (Their full obituary is promised later.)

“Most books advertised for ‘readers of all ages’ fail to keep their promise,” Ann McGovern wrote in her review in The New York Times in 1961. “But Norton Juster’s amazing fantasy has something wonderful for anybody old enough to relish the allegorical wisdom of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and the pointed whimsy of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”

Publishers Weekly includes more details of Juster’s later years: “Obituary: Norton Juster”.

…Juster retired from teaching in 1992 and from his architecture practice in 1996, though he continued writing. He wrote two picture books illustrated by Chris Raschka and inspired by his granddaughter: The Hello, Goodbye Window (Hyperion/Michael di Capua, 2005), for which Raschka won the 2006 Caldecott Medal, and a sequel, Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie (Scholastic/Michael di Capua, 2008). In 2010, Juster and Feiffer reunited for the picture book The Odious Ogre (Hyperion/Michael di Capua, 2010). At the time, Juster quipped, “We realized it was such fun working together that we made a pact: we are prepared to do a new book every 50 years.” The duo spoke with PW then about what it was like teaming up again.

Juster’s wife of 54 years, Jeanne, died in 2018. He is survived by his daughter Emily and granddaughter Tori, both of Amherst. A celebration of Juster’s life is being planned for a later date….

(6) ENGELBERG OBIT. Dr. Michael Engelberg, an oncologist at Cedar-Sinai in Los Angeles and a film producer, recently died. He was executive producer of The Puppet Masters (1994). Among the other films he tried to develop was one based on Wild Cards.

George R.R. Martin wrote an affectionate memoir on his blog: “Covid Claims Another Friend”.

…A PRINCESS OF MARS was his passion project, but by no means the only one he worked on.    There was a time back in the 90s when I had four — yes, count ’em, four — films in active development at Hollywood Pictures, and Dr. Michael Engelberg was the executive producer and guiding hand on all of them.   Besides PRINCESS, Melinda and I were also developing WILD CARDS as a feature film, collaborating on a screenplay built around our own most iconic characters, Dr. Tachyon and the Great and Powerful Turtle.   Michael also picked up the rights to FADEOUT, an original SF screenplay I had written for a small independent that had gone bust.    For a time there was talk of attaching Sharon Stone to that one, but when that fell through, so did the project.  And Hollywood also optioned my historical horror novel, FEVRE DREAM.  I was so busy with other work — the aforementioned PRINCESS, WILD CARDS, FADEOUT, as well as three television pilots, the Wild Cards books, and this fantasy novel I had started in 1991 — that I did not get around to writing the screenplay for FEVRE DREAM for a while, alas.   Big mistake.   By the time I turned in the script, Hollywood Pictures was on its last legs and had lost all interest in steamboats and vampires.   They put the script in turnaround the day after I turned it in.

None of that was Dr. Michael’s fault.   He was as frustrated as any of us by the vagaries of development hell.   Maybe more so.   I loved working with him, maybe because he had a trufan’s reverence for the original material.  Whether dealing with ERB, RAH, or GRRM, he always argued for staying with the book and doing faithful adaptations.

Melinda Snodgrass also mourns his loss: “In Memoriam”.

There have been four men in my life who I have considered to be beyond brilliant. One was my father, the second a professor at my law school, another an inventor and space visionary, and the fourth was my friend, Dr. Michael Engelberg. I first met Michael at what would become our traditional meeting at Hop Li Seafood Restaurant in L.A.’s Chinatown.

Michael was an oncologist at Cedar’s Sinai, a brilliant physician, but he was also a movie producer. He had made Heinlein’s Puppet Masters for Disney, and he absolutely loved the Wild Cards series. That’s how we ended up meeting because he wanted to make a Wild Cards movie. It’s because of Michael that George and I got to pitch directly to Michael Eisner, the head of Disney at the time….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 9, 1918 Mickey Spillane. His first job was writing stories for Funnies Inc. including Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America. Do note these were text stories, not scripts for comics. Other than those, ISFDB lists him as writing three genre short stories: “The Veiled Woman“ (co-written with Howard Browne),  “The Girl Behind the Hedge” and “Grave Matter” (co-written with Max Allan Collins).  Has anyone read these? (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born March 9, 1934 – Yuri Gagarin.  First human being in Space, April 12, 1961.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born March 9, 1937 – Robin Johnson, age 84.  Chaired Aussiecon the 33rd Worldcon, first in Australia; Fan Guest of Honour at Aussiecon 4 the 68th.  In between, Fan GoH at the 10th Australian natcon (i.e. national convention); at Syncon ’78; Swancon 7; ARCon.  Chaired Thylacon 1-3.  Succeeded Leigh Edmonds as editor of Norstrilian News.  Ditmar Award for contributions to fandom.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born March 9, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah I’m stretching it. Ok, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.)  (CE)
  • Born March 9, 1945 Robert Calvert. Lyricist for Hawkwind, a band that’s at least genre adjacent. And Simon R. Green frequently mentioned them in his Nightside series. Calvert was a close friend of Michael Moorcock.  He wrote SF poetry which you read about here. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born March 9, 1947 – David Emerson, age 74.  Chaired ReinCONation 5-6, also Not-a-ReinCONation (of course there was one, consider Minneapolis fandom).  Served a term as editor of Rune.  In several performances of The Mimeo Man; co-director of Midwest Side Story.  [JH]
  • Born March 9, 1952 – Jim Shull, age 69.  One of our best fanartists.  Four FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Fanzine, Crifanac (“critical fan activity”); co-editor of The Essence.  Here is some of his work in Outworlds 15; here is some more.  Here is his cover for Prehensile 6.
  • Born March 9, 1955 Pat Murphy,66. I think her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. And The Falling Woman by her is an amazing read as well. She’s reasonably well stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born March 9, 1957 – Diann Thornley, age 64.  Three novels, four shorter stories.  Two dozen years in the U.S. Air Force; finished Ganwold’s Child at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near my alma mater Antioch.  Two drawings in The Leading Edge, hello Dave Doering.  [JH]
  • Born March 9, 1965 Brom, 56. Artist and writer whose best work I think is Krampus: The Yule Lord and The Child ThiefThe Art of Brom is a very good look at his art. He’s listed as having provided some of the art design used on Galaxy Quest. (CE)
  • Born March 9, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 43. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind me a bit of Alastair Reynolds and his Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. Quite fascinating. (CE)
  • Born March 9, 1990 – Delson Armstrong, age 31.  Three novels (one with Rishabh Jain).  Likes Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, wishes he could manage to play piano more.  Travels between New York and Bombay (as, he confesses, he still calls it; he was born there).  Has read The Iliad, four Shakespeare plays, Paradise Lost – and Siddhartha, aiee; dare we ask how it looks to him? [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater finds a place where that timepiece takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

(9) BEAM UP ANOTHER CANDLE. “William Shatner to celebrate 90th birthday with ‘Star Trek’ event in Upstate NY” reports NYup.com. March 22 is his birthday.

Captain James T. Kirk is boldly returning to Upstate New York.

William Shatner will celebrate his 90th birthday with a special event at the “Star Trek Set Tour” exhibit in Ticonderoga, N.Y., on the weekend of July 23-24, 2021.

Trekkies, or Trekkers, can book a number of options, including an early bird general admission price of $49.99 (regular price $80), $499 for a tour with Shatner himself, $160 for a photo, $80 for an autograph, or $1,500 for a “VIP All-Inclusive Package” featuring a dinner gala with Shatner plus the tour, photo, autograph and a “Bridge Chat.”…

(10) BLACKWOOD. Eugene Thacker analyzes how “How Algernon Blackwood Turned Nature Into Sublime Horror” at Literary Hub. His primary text is Blackwood’s 1901 article “Down the Danube in a Canadian Canoe”: 

…Already this is the stuff of Blackwood’s many stories of supernatural horror. But what gives scenes like this their ambiance of otherworldliness is not that there are menacing monsters in the night, but rather that the entire environment—the mountains, sky, river, trees—are somehow alive, and alive in an impersonal but sublime way that far exceeds the taxonomies of the naturalist or the theories of the biologist. At one point in the journey, Blackwood makes note of a scene that, in itself, has nothing supernatural about it—circling crows, swaying trees, crepuscular sky—but it is precisely its naturalism that gives Blackwood the sense of “a something alive”:

“Big grey hawks circled ever over head and grey crows by the thousand lined the shores. That evening, after crossing and re-crossing the river, we found a sheltered camp on a sandy island where pollards and willows roared in the wind. As if to show the loneliness of the spot an otter, rolling over and over among the eddies, swam past us as we landed. About sunset the clouds broke up momentarily and let out a flood of crimson light all over the wild country. Against the gorgeous red sky a stream of dark clouds, in all shapes and kinds, hurried over into the Carpathian mountains…”

In short, a landscape without human beings—except, of course, for the enigma of the solitary observer Blackwood himself, bearing witness to the absence of all humanity….

(11) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed proof that some of tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants know their Ray Bradbury.

Final Jeopardy; category: Science Fiction

Answer: In a 1962 sci-fi story, a time traveler returning to the present finds a dead one of these insects on his shoe.

Wrong question: What is a cockroach?

Correct question: What is a butterfly? (2 contestants got it right)

The temporary host, Katie Couric, mentioned that the Ray Bradbury story gave rise to the term “The Butterly Effect.”

Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter

(12) FROM COLLECTIBLE TO CONTRABAND. One item on Mental Floss’ list of “The TSA’s 10 Weirdest Confiscations From 2020” is genre-related.

…a set of knives concealed in a secret compartment in a copy of Brian W. Aldiss’s science fiction novel Helliconia Summer. The cavity was created in part by cutting out pages from a chapter called “A Way to Better Weaponry.”

See it at the 18-second point in this video:

(13) DRUMMING UP INTEREST. At the link is a scan of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s pre-con coverage of the “1953 World Science Convention”. Andrew Porter also sent along this image of the postage stamps referenced in the article.

(14) YOUR LACK OF FAITH IS DISTURBING. In “Warp Drive News. Seriously” on YouTube, Austrian physicist and sf fan Sabine Hossenfelder explains how new discoveries in physics show that warp drives are possible by manipulating space-time.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  Kung Fu Panda” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say this film is a good choice if you don’t want to spend $30 for Raya And The Last Dragon and if your kids won’t understand Soul.  They say the film is “better than it has a right to be” and its victory over Wall-E in the Annie Awards caused Disney to boycott the Annies for 10 years.

[Thanks to Jennifer Hawthorne, Rich Lynch, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/16/21 We Seem To Be Living In A Golden Age Of Pixel Scroll Titles At The Moment

(1) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Mar/Apr 2021 cover art is by Mondolithic Studios. Available at www.fandsf.com.

(2) MAKE READERS FEEL. Melinda Snodgrass has posted the text of her speech at the 2021 Life the Universe and Everything conference: “Tears That Speak”.

…When I sit down to write I am making an explicit promise to my reader or my viewer that I will not disappoint them. Now that isn’t a promise I will give them a happy ending (though Connie Willis and I absolutely agree that there is nothing wrong with a happy ending). What I’m promising is that I will give them an earned ending.

This is my reminder that if your story is based on one of these archetypes you best not complicate the story so much that you fail to meet those expectations by trying to be too clever by half, or trying to “redefine fiction or television” or whatever other grandiose notion one might have.

Which brings me to what for me is the most essential rule: Endings matter. In other words you have to “stick the landing”. This is a debate I’ve had with a certain famous fantasy author over many years. He claims that if you have a great journey you will be forgiven for punting the ending. I couldn’t disagree more. If you blow the ending it doesn’t matter how great the journey might have been. A bad ending will taint the entire work whether book or film.

I have my own personal example of this. The video game Mass Effect. It would probably go down as one if the not the greatest game in the history of the industry… but they blew the ending. I loved that game and the ride was amazing, but I cannot bring myself to replay it because I know that dreadful ending is waiting for me. And believe me, if I love a game I will replay it — numerous times — like Dragon Age: Origins….

(3) WAIT FOR IT. Futurism reads the social media tea leaves and concludes “’The Mandalorian’ Season 3 Cannot Release Until 2022”.

…So most of the titles on the [Disney+ preview kit] list are related to Marvel, and the only ones pertaining to Star Wars are the shows about Boba Fett and the Bad Batch (the former being live-action and the latter being animated). With The Mandalorian absent from this list, it appears that the show will not come back in 2021, but rather 2022. 

…Disney+ wants to be sure that it has subscribers for as long of a period of time as possible. If The Mandalorian season 3 were to come out in 2022, perhaps even right after The Book of Boba Fett has its season finale, then that would give fans a reason to stick around and stay subscribed for a couple more months. This strategy would be similar to what happened recently on CBS All-Access, where the new Star Trek animated series Lower Decks aired its first season and was immediately followed by season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery. It is a strategy that makes a lot of financial sense. The people making the shows try to tell really good stories, but the business side also has to be taken into account in order to sustain the platform that hosts these shows.

(4) PEAK INVENTIVENESS. A novel by S. B. Divya gets the group’s attention in “Hugo Book Club Blog: The Humanity Of Machinehood”.

…One of the recurring themes explored in the book — and one of the reasons it should be considered for the Prometheus Award — is the relationship between government services, the private sector, and do-it-yourself culture. As an example, those wanting to go to space do so through the participation of voluntary hobbyist rocket-ship clubs, while health care is allocated through a system of micro-auctions. Pharmaceuticals are often printed at home with some government oversight, but pill designs come from both giant corporations and from hobbyists. None of these details are delivered by way of polemic, but rather flow naturally within the story.

In such a setting, the most powerful actors seem to be religions, in part because of the unassailable sway they have over their followers. Without giving too much away, there are philosophical aspects to a religion of Neo-Budhism that provide incredible motivations to some of the religion’s adherents. Religion thus is shown to be a tool to navigate and instigate change….

(5) PRIME POHL. Fanac.org has posted recording of a 1963 interview of Frederik Pohl conducted by Fred Lerner: “Science Fiction as Social Criticism” at YouTube.

Frederik Pohl fields questions on everything from how science fiction covers race relations to religion and advertising in this 1963 audio interview (presented with illustrative pictures). Fred Lerner, noted librarian, bibliographer and historian, was just 18 when he interviewed Frederik Pohl, both a professional science fiction writer of long standing, and one of the earliest science fiction fans. 

At the time of the interview, in addition to writing, Fred Pohl was editing prominent SF magazines and original anthologies. In this recording, listen for the discussion of his “Space Merchants” to predictions about the advertising industry, his views on fantasy vs science fiction, comments on the best fiction of the period, and even a whiff of “fans are slans”. This thoughtful interview provides not only a perspective on a major author in the field, but on a major editor. It’s worth noting that this is the second interview Pohl did that day. Interviewer Fred Lerner tells us that “the recording engineer was so interested in what Pohl had to say that he forgot to turn on the recorder. Fred Pohl was gracious – and patient – enough to repeat the interview!”

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 16, 1967 — On the day in 1967, Star Trek’s “Space Seed” premiered on NBC. Written by Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber, it was directed by Marc Daniels. It guest starred Ricardo Montalbán as Khan Noonien Singh who would repeat this role in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan which would be nominated for a Hugo. Benedict Cumberbatch later portrayed Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 16, 1878 – Pamela Colman Smith.  Drew the 78 cards of the Waite-Smith Tarot deck in six months, a remarkable achievement in fantastic art.  Two books of Jamaican folklore; here is Annacy Stories (spelled Anansi in e.g. the Niven-Barnes book).  Illustrated Yeats and Stoker.  World War I charity work.  Theater programs and illustrations; here is an image from Scheherazadehere is Sir Henry Irving as Cardinal Wolsey in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born February 16, 1922 – Rusty Hevelin.  Fan Guest of Honor at Denvention Two the 39th Worldcon; Fan GoH and Toastmaster at so many SF cons that everyone (including RH) lost count.  U.S. Marine in World War II.  Antioch College man (as am I); dated Coretta Scott.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Find) delegate.  Fantascience Digest (with Bob Madle).  Dealer, mostly of prozines, at and after Baycon the 26th Worldcon (there have been various other Baycons); instrumental in Pulpcon for thirty years.  Moskowitz Archive Award (for collecting); his collection went to Univ. Iowa.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born February 16, 1925 – Ed Emshwiller.  Over forty years one of our best and most frequent illustrators.  Five hundred forty covers, twelve hundred interiors.  Here is the Jun 51 Galaxy.  Here is Jack of Eagles.  Here is Prelude to Space.  Here is Have Space Suit, Will Travel.  Here is the Apr 60 F&SF.  Here is the Program Book for Chicon III the 20th Worldcon.  Here is The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller vol. 1 (his wife).  Five Hugos.  Artbooks Emshwiller: Infinity × TwoDream Dance.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born February 16, 1938 – Chuck Crayne.  Long vital in Los Angeles fandom; earned its Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Co-chaired Westercon 22 and L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon.  Co-founded the NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  Official Arbiter of The Cult at least as often as George Scithers.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born February 16, 1951 William Katt, 70. Ralph Hinkley, the lead of The Greatest American Hero. A series I know I watched and loved at the time.  In December 1975, he auditioned for the part of Luke Skywalker but didn’t get the role obviously. (CE) 
  • Born February 16, 1954 Iain M. Banks. I’m certain I’ve read the entire Culture series even though I certainly didn’t read them in the order they were written. My favorites? Certainly The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas are also my favs. And though not genre, I’m still going to make a plug for Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about single malt whisky, good food and his love of sports cars. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born February 16, 1953 Mike Glyer, 68. I decide to let one of y’all give him Birthday greeting so let’s Paul Weimer do it: “I first became of the inestimate Mr. Glyer because of seeing his name in Locus, multiple times, for something called File 770. When I found it online and started to read the blog, I only stepped in the middle of a stream of decades long science fiction fandom that has been his pole star. Mr. Glyer’s fandom has been an inspiration and model for myself, and doubtless, many others. I am glad that I have helped in my own small way to help with the edifice of SF fandom that he has created and in a very real way, embodies. Although I still have not yet managed to meet him in person,  I am proud to call him a friend. Happy Birthday Mike!” (CE)
  • Born February 16, 1955 – A.C. Farley, age 66.  A score of covers, twoscore interiors (besides his work for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).  Here is Retief to the Rescue.  Here is the Jan 89 Asimov’s.  Here is the Nov 90 Analog.  Here is Precious Cargo.  Here is the Oct 93 TMNT.  Here is his Website for Altered Earth Arts.  [JH]
  • Born February 16, 1957 Ardwight Chamberlain, 64. The voice of Kosh on Babylon 5. And that tickles me as I don’t think they credited it during the series, did they? Most of his other voice work English dubbing versions of Japanese anime including Digimon: Digital Monsters and The Swiss Family Robinson: Flone of the Mysterious Island. (CE) 
  • Born February 16, 1964 Christopher Eccleston, 57. The Ninth Doctor who’s my third favorite among the new ones behind David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker. Other genre work includes 28 Days LaterThe SeekerG.I. Joe: The Rise of CobraThor: The Dark WorldThe LeftoversThe Second Coming and The Borrowers. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Barbican Theatre. (CE) 
  • Born February 16, 1968 Warren Ellis, 53. I think Planetary is bloody brilliant as is Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan. His work on The Authority is not to be sniffed at either, nor should we overlook Iron Man: Extremis. He’s got two rather superb novels, Crooked Little Vein and Gun Machine, that are not genre but which if you like hardboiled detective fiction, I’ll strongly recommend both. (CE) 
  • Born February 16, 1969 – Jennifer Marie Brissett, age 52.  One novel, nine shorter stories; essay “Dear Ms. Butler” for Luminescent Threads.  Interviewed in Strange Horizons and Uncanny, two good descriptions for her novel Elysium; it won a Philip K. Dick Special Citation.  Has read Anna KareninaThe Makioka Sisters, Aeschylus’ Oresteia plays, Watership Down, Don Quixote, four by Wells, two each by Bradbury, Hemingway, Dumas.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd uses Star Wars to explain the circular workings of a vaccine.

(9) A TRILOGY IS STILL IN THE CARDS. News items don’t get much shorter than this:

(10) DID YOU VOTE FOR HIM? James Davis Nicoll celebrates the U.S. holiday with “Five SF Tales of Presidential Peril” that are not jolly at all!

…When it comes to celebrating the legacies of fictional presidents, well… a system of checks and balances that works as designed doesn’t seem to make for a plot-friendly setting (although it must be reassuring to those who live under it). But authors are in no way limited by reality. They can tweak their settings in any way that makes for a thrilling adventure tale…and they have!….

(11) DO OVER. If the Doctor can’t change history, he can at least change his mind.“Sylvester McCoy says doubts about female Doctor were ‘stupid sexism’” the Guardian’s account based on a Radio Times interview.

The former Doctor Who star Sylvester McCoy has said his initial reservations about a female Doctor were due to “stupid sexism” and that he would like the role to be played next by a person of colour.

McCoy, who played the seventh incarnation of the doctor between 1987 and 1996, was quoted in 2015 as saying: “The Time Lord should never regenerate as a woman.”

He further dismissed the idea of a female Doctor, saying: “I’m sorry, but no – Doctor Who is a male character, just like James Bond. If they changed it to be politically correct, then it would ruin the dynamics between the Doctor and the assistant, which is a popular part of the show. I support feminism, but I’m not convinced by the cultural need of a female Doctor Who.”

But in a new interview for Radio Times, McCoy acknowledged that his initial reservations about the casting of Jodie Whittaker in the role were primarily motivated by sexist inclinations….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  Lilo & Stitch” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say Stitch sounds “like a cross between Gollum and the Minions” and notes that Disney + changed the cover of a dryer Lilo plays in to a pizza box because they don’t want anyone to think they want kids to play in dryers.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, N., JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Meta title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 11/12/20 When The Scrolling Gets Weird, The Pixels Turn Pro

(1) THE NEXT GENERATION. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel took a look at “’No Trading Voyage’ by Doris Pitkin Buck”. What did they think of this 1963 poem?

This month’s entry is from Doris Pitkin Buck, a Science Fiction Writers of America founder. Buck was mainly associated with The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which for various stupid reason was not a magazine I followed closely back in the day. Accordingly, I was not familiar with her work when I encountered this example of it way, way back in 2019. I see I carefully side-stepped my issues with poetry in my review. Let’s see what my Young People made of her poem. 

(2) FREE MARS? In “Elon Musk’s Martian Way (Empire Not Included)”  on National Review Online, Texas Tech economist Alexander William Salter says a curious clause in Musk’s Starlink satellite contracts doesn’t mean Musk quietly wants to conquer Mars.

…But a much more exotic charge against Starlink, and Elon Musk himself, has recently come to light. A curious clause in Starlink’s terms and conditions suggests SpaceX’s future plans for a Martian settlement will result in SpaceX becoming a law unto itself. As the service agreement reads:

“For Services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities. Accordingly, Disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement.”

Nefarious! Or is it? We need some context.

Clearly, the clause doesn’t pose any immediate legal concerns. This is a long-term issue. One of Musk’s ambitions is to create a settlement on Mars. In Musk’s vision, much of the infrastructure for the settlement, including Internet via Starlink, will be supplied by SpaceX itself. That includes governance: the rules dictating how the intrepid Martian explorers will live together. In fact, SpaceX’s legal team is currently working on a Martian constitution.

This science-fiction-esque plan predictably led observers to decry the prospect of corporate domination of space. “Elon Musk plans to get to Mars first, and that means he can quickly establish a fiefdom where he makes his own rules by a first-come, first-serve system,” complains Caroline Delbert at Popular Mechanics. Legal experts weighed in soon after, claiming that this language violates international law. The smart set seems more than happy to cast Musk in the role of Hugo Drax, the tech-savvy Bond villain who sought space power to control humanity….

(3) ISFIC WRITERS CONTEST EXTENSION. Steven H Silver brings word that the ISFiC Writers Contest  for unpublished writers of science fiction and fantasy has extended its deadline for submissions to November 27. Guidelines for entries are at the link.

(4) HOW CAN THE SAME THING HAPPEN TO THE SAME GUY TWICE? “Bruce Willis returns to space to kick some alien derriere in Breach trailer”Ars Technica sets the frame.

…Originally titled Anti-Life, the film’s premise is that a devastating plague has wiped out much of Earth’s population, and the survivors are being evacuated via an interstellar ark to “New Earth.” Willis plays Clay Young, described as a hardened mechanic who is part of the crew selected to stay awake and maintain the ark for the six-month journey. But then he discovers a shape-shifting alien (or “a malevolent cosmic terror,” per the early press materials) has also stowed away on the ark, and it seems to be intent on killing everyone on board…

(5) FIRST FANDOM SALUTE TO MADLE. First Fandom Annual 2020 has just been published with the theme “Celebrating Robert A. Madle.”

Robert A. Madle

This is a tribute to legendary fan Bob Madle, who just recently celebrated his one hundredth birthday.  In a long article featuring rare photographs and illustrations, Bob recounts his involvement in science fiction fandom over the course of ten decades.   He also reflects on the early days of Amazing Stories, the origins of FAPA, and the genesis of First Fandom.

Among the highlights: appreciations of Bob by some of his long-time friends, including a poem from 1968 by Robert Bloch; a gallery of First Fandom photos and a Robert A. Madle bibliography prepared by Christopher M. O’Brien.

Edited by John L. Coker III and Jon D. Swartz. 60 pages, limited edition (26 copies); Laser printed on good quality paper; Photographs and interior illustrations; Gloss covers, 8½ x 11, saddle-stitched.

This will soon be out-of-print, so order your copy today by sending a check or money order for $30 payable to John L. Coker III to 4813 Lighthouse Road, Orlando, FL 32808.

(6) COVID DELAYS ANOTHER CON. The Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo has been pushed back: “C2E2 Postpones Next Convention to December 2021” at Comicbook.com.

The convention circuit has been profoundly impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as social distancing guidelines and fluctuating positivity numbers have thrown out the possibility of large scale events. As a result, many high-profile events have been forced to move into a digital format, or delay their dates well into next year. The Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2, is the latest to do so, announcing on Tuesday that its next convention will be held from December 10th through December 12th of 2021. This delays the 2021 convention pretty significantly, as it was originally set to occur March 26-28, 2021.

(7) MCCAULEY OBIT. Literary agent Kay McCauley died on Sunday. Melinda Snodgrass paid tribute in “Living Life On Your Own Terms — Kay McCauley”.

I met Kay McCauley at the World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto back in 2003. I was in desperate need of a new literary agent, and George offered to introduce me to his agent. Kay was there to support George who was the GoH, but wasn’t much into the convention scene so I took a taxi and met her for lunch at her hotel.

The woman I met was a bit taller than me with elegantly coifed brunette hair, elegant gold jewelry, a chic pantsuit and a perfect manicure. Kay alternated between being charming, brusque, funny, judgmental, demanding. She pushed me — what are your goals? Why do you do this? What do you want to write? I could tell she was sizing me up in every way possible. I guess I managed to do something right because she became my agent a few months later.

She worked tirelessly for me for nearly twenty years. But this wasn’t just a professional relationship. Kay became my dear friend and confidant and it was a two way street. I could call her when I was sad or upset and she knew she could lean on me whenever life dealt her a blow. We always kept each other’s confidences. We had each other’s backs….

(8) LAFARGE OBIT. Tom LaFarge (1947-2020) died on October 22. He is survived by Wendy Walker and his son Paul La Farge. Tom had recently completed The Enchantments, a series of three novels published 2015-18. Author Henry Wessells wrote an essay on his writings for NYRSF, “Ticket to Bargeton”.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1975 – Forty-five years ago, Poul Anderson’s A Midsummer Tempest would win the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and be nominated for the Locus, Nebula and World Fantasy awards as well.  Set in a world where Shakespeare was the Great Historian, all the events depicted within his plays were historical fact. Lester Del Rey in his August 1974 If review said that it is “a fantasy I can recommend with pleasure.”  Tom Lewis is the cover artist. It is available in print and digital editions. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 12, 1877 – John R. Neill.  Starting with the second Oz book, illustrated the rest of Baum’s, all of Thompson’s, three of his own.  Before, worked on newspapers; around the time of Baum’s death, became a free lance, drawing for e.g. Boy’s LifeLadies’ Home JournalVanity FairSaturday Evening PostArgosy.  Here is The Lost Princess of Oz.  Here is The Magic of Oz.  Here is Scraps, the Patchwork Girl.  Here is an interior from the Dec 19 Everybody’s.  Here is “Beyond the Dark Nebula” from the 4 Apr 31 Argosy.  A granddaughter maintains a Website.  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende. German author best known for The Neverending Story which is far better than the film which only covers part of the novel.  Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves is a charming if strange novel worth your time.   The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years. Unlike The Neverending Story and Momo which I’ve encountered, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)  (CE)
  • Born November 12, 1930 – Irma Chilton.  Ten novels, a few shorter stories.  Wrote in English and Welsh.  Tir na n-Og Award.  Crown for prose at 1989 Nat’l Eisteddfod.  Welsh Arts Council’s Irma Chilton Bursary prize named for her.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born November 12, 1943 Wallace Shawn, 77. Probably best remembered as the ferengi Grand Nagus Zek on Deep Space Nine, a role he only played seven times. He was also Vizzini in the beloved Princess Bride, and he played Dr. Elliott Coleye in the My Favorite Martian film.(CE)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Julie Ege. A Bond Girl On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as Helen, the Scandinavian girl. She also appeared  in Hammer‘s Creatures the World Forgot and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. And in The Mutations which got released under the alternative title of The Freakmaker. She had a role in De Dwaze Lotgevallen Von Sherlock Jones which got dubbed into English as The Crazy Adventures of Sherlock Jones. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born November 12, 1943 Valerie Leon, 77. She appeared in two Bond films, Never Say Never Again and The Spy Who Loved Me, and in the horror flick Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb as Margaret Fuchs / Queen Tera. She was also Tanya in Revenge of the Pink Panther, and had one-offs in The AvengersSpace:1999 and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). (CE) 
  • Born November 12, 1945 – Michael Bishop, 75.  A dozen novels, a hundred thirty shorter stories, fifty poems; a dozen “Pitching Pennies Against the Starboard Bulkhead” essays, many others e.g. Introductions to Nebula Awards 23-25, “Forty Years with Asimov’s SF” (Jul-Aug 17 Asimov’s), letters in LocusNY Rev SFRiverside QuarterlySF Commentary; a dozen collections, recently The Sacerdotal Owl.  Reflections, Reverie for Mister Ray.  M.A. thesis on Dylan Thomas.  Two Nebulas, a Rhysling, a Shirley Jackson.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born November 12, 1950 – Michael Capobianco, 70.  Two novels and a shorter story; four more novels, two shorter stories, with William Barton.  Two (non-consecutive) terms as SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) President; Service to SFWA Award.  MC & WB interviewed in SF Eye.  [JH]
  • Born November 12, 1952 Max Grodenchik, 68. He’s best known for his role as Rom, a recurring character on Deep Space Nine. He has a long genre history with appearances in The RocketeerHere Come The MunstersRumpelstiltskinStar Trek: Insurrection (scenes as a Trill were deleted alas), Tales from The CryptSlidersWienerlandThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bruce Almighty. (CE)
  • Born November 12, 1969 – Olivia Grey, 51.  Three novels, four more under another name; half a dozen shorter stories.  Muse of the Fair at 2011 Steampunk World’s Fair.  Avalon Revisited won Steampunk Chronicle’s 2012 Reader’s Choice for Best Fiction.  M.A. thesis on Le Morte d’Arthur.  [JH]
  • Born November 12, 1976 Richelle Mead, 44. Best known for her Georgina Kincaid series, the Vampire Academy franchize and its spin-off series Bloodlines, and the Dark Swan series. I’ve only read Succubus Blues by her but it’s a truly great read and I recommend it strongly. Spirit Bound won a Good Reads Award.  (CE)
  • Born November 12, 1984 – Benjamin Martin, 36.  Moved to Okinawa from Arizona.  Two fantastic samurai novels (Samurai Awakening won a Crystal Kite Award), one shorter story.  Karumi Tengo photography prize.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) THE FIRST. James Davis Nicoll digs into “Science Fiction’s Very First ‘Year’s Best’ Anthology” at Tor.com.

… This 314-page hardcover, published by Frederick Fell, with a cover by Frank McCarthy (1924–2002) collected twelve stories from 1948. It sold for $2.95, which in today’s currency is about $30.

What did the best of 1948 look like, you wonder? I am so happy you asked.

The table of contents is dominated by men. One of the two women included, Catherine Moore, was concealed behind her husband’s byline effectively enough that an editorial comment makes it clear the editors believed the story was by Kuttner alone. Women were active in the field at the time, but as documented by Lisa Yaszek, the editors crafting SF canon were not much interested in acknowledging women. Who else, one wonders, was overlooked?

Still, one has to review the Best SF anthology one has, not the Best SF anthology you might want or wish to have at a later time….

(13) HOW SOME WRITERS GET PAID. “BYU Vending Machines Dispense Short Stories” reports KSL TV.

They are far from the typical vending machines found on college campuses.

At Brigham Young University, two new dispensers are offering a different kind of fare — short stories.

“I thought, ‘what a brilliant way to not be staring at your phone all the time!’” said Leslee Thorne-Murphy, an English professor and associate dean at the BYU College of Humanities.

Thorne-Murphy said she first saw the Short Edition dispensers in an urban mall in London and helped bring the idea to BYU as part of an initiative launched by the College of Humanities.

Three contactless buttons allow a student to select either a 1, 3, or 5-minute read, and the machine prints out a story selected at random from its database.

Stories range from famous works to student-submitted stories that have been added through writing contests.

(14) MAKE IT SO. SYFY Wire is there when “The Star Trek Cocktails book arrives with a bounty of libations to enjoy…for medicinal purposes”.

Relaxing from the universe’s withering stresses has always been an important part of the Star Trek universe. For some, that included imbibing alcoholic drinks. Be it solemnly inside their quarters to mark a moment, or collecting with peers in a bar like Ten-Forward, Trek has given us plenty of tantalizing visual cocktails in all of its various film and television iterations that audiences have long wished to taste at home

Luckily, you can now give almost 40 different Star Trek inspired alcoholic drinks a spin at home with the release today of Hero Collector’s Star Trek Cocktails: A Stellar Compendium. Written by Glenn Dakin with drinks curated by mixologists by Simon Pellet and Adrian Calderbank, the coffee table book features photos and illustrations of the drinks, the characters, and the events that inspired their creation.

(15) SPACEX IS GO. SPACEX but it’s THUNDERBIRDS! by Psyclonyx.

(16) BE KIND TO YOUR WEBFOOTED FRIENDS. “Who Would Rig This Vote? The Fraud Was Real (and Feathers Were Ruffled)” – the New York Times has the story. Tagline: “More than 1,500 fake votes were slipped into New Zealand’s Bird of the Year 2020 contest in favor of the kiwi pukupuku.”

…The scandal has roiled Bird of the Year 2020, an online popularity contest among the native birds of New Zealand, and made headlines in the remote Pacific Island nation, which takes its avian biodiversity seriously.

“It’s kind of disappointing that people decide to try their little tech tricks on Bird of the Year,” Laura Keown, the spokeswoman for the competition, told Radio New Zealand on Tuesday. “I’m not sure what kind of person could do it, but I like to assume that it’s somebody who just really loved native birds.”

No one has claimed responsibility, and no one is expected to.

The contest, which began on Nov. 2 and ends on Sunday, is conducted through an instant-runoff system that allows voters to rank their favorite birds — just as New Zealanders do when they elect humans to office. The organizer, a New Zealand-based advocacy group called Forest & Bird, has said that the contest is designed to raise awareness about the plight of the country’s more than 200 species of native birds, many of which are threatened or at risk of extinction.

(17) HONEST TRAILERS. In “Honest Trailers:  The Evil Dead Movies,” the Screen Junkies say the three “Evil Dead” movies are “as light on substance as they are heavy on style” and contain “enough red-dye corn syrup to flood the Eastern Seaboard.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, David Doering, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill Wagner, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/20 The Master And Margaritas

(1) THE DC COMICS SALE TO END ALL. Comicbook.com says “Sotheby’s Selling Most Complete DC Comics Collection Ever Featuring Rare Batman and Superman Comics”.

Today Sotheby announced that is will auction DC Complete: The Ian Levine Collection, a comic book collection that includes every comic book published by DC Comics from 1935 through 2016, including complete runs of SupermanBatmanAction Comics, and Detective Comics. The collection includes more than 40,000 comics that also feature Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Justice League. The collection is available to view now on the Sotheby’s website. Sotheby’s chose today to start the private sale as it marks the 81st anniversary of the release of Detective Comics #27, which included the first appearance of Batman.

It’s a private sale, which means there is no public auction, just negotiations between Sotheby’s specialists and one or more private buyers.* Bids are being taken starting today – here’s the Sotheby’s link. Download the catalog here [PDF file]. A quote about how the collection was assembled, from the auction house’s article —

For a decade, Levine purchased a new copy of every DC issue he could find, while trying to fill in earlier issues. However, in pre-internet 1987, Levine despaired of finding many Golden Age comics he lacked, and decided to sell many of his best issues in order to fund his collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who film prints. However, reviewing his stacks of comic books with the purchaser reawakened his passion for this pop art form, and Levine bought his comics back from the dealer he had sold them to—at a 50% premium. Amassing about half of the comics DC had ever published, Levine determined to form a complete collection. Sacrificing his incomparable collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who prints, along with the assistance of the nascent internet and dealer, advisor, and author of The Comic Book Paul Sassienie, he achieved this ambition, which would essentially be impossible to replicate. In 2010, Levine’s paramount, unique collection was utilized to supply the illustrations for Taschen’s monumental publication 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz, the former president and publisher of DC.

(2) ASK THE EXPERTS. The Boston Globe asks futurists and SF writers to look ahead: “It actually may be the end of the world as we know it”. Beware paywall.

…ANNALEE NEWITZ, science-fiction and nonfiction author, podcaster

I have a couple of scenarios I’ve been batting around in my head, which both feel equally plausible at this point.

Scenario One: As more people hunker down at home, more of our most vital and personal activities will have to go online. Lots of people are learning how to have serious meetings remotely, and how to work as teams in group chat.

Then there’s the arguably more psychologically vital stuff: I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons with my gamer group using videoconferencing, and watching TV with a housebound, high-risk loved one by hitting play at the same time on a TV episode and videochatting with him at the same time.

I’m not alone. A lot of us are cut off from our loved ones right now, and online connection is all we have. Suddenly “online” doesn’t feel like a fantasy realm. It’s our social fabric. The online world is going to become a fully robust public space, and we won’t want to see garbage and detritus everywhere. We will finally start to see social media companies taking responsibility for what’s on their platforms — information will need to be accurate, or people will die.

…Scenario Two: The pandemic rips through the population, aided in part by contradictory messages from state and federal governments, as well as misinformation online. As social groups and families are torn apart by disease and unemployment, people look increasingly to social media for radical solutions: violent uprisings, internment camps for immigrants and other “suspicious” groups, and off-the-grid cults that promise sanctuary from death.

(3) HAS THE JURY REACHED A VERDICT? James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel considers “Rediscovery: Of All Possible Worlds, Rosel George Brown”.

This is the second Brown featured in Rediscovery. As mentioned last month, Brown was a promising author whose career was cut short by her death in 1967. I don’t have much to add to that, except to wonder if my Young People will enjoy this story more than they did the previous one.

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? John King Tarpinian has already ordered “Classic Monster Aloha Safety Mask”. Get yours for a mere $9.95. More styles here. And they sell matching shirts for some of them — Daniel Dern says “I’ve got the first two in that were shown in this post.”

Introducing Aloha Safety Face masks!! Hawaiian Printed Masks that are fashionable , fun, and made in the USA!!

And just like that, my shirt factory has shifted production, retooled, and is making much needed face masks for hospitals and clinics. We are all proud to be part of the effort to in the corona-virus fight and provide protective gear to Doctors, Nurses, and hospital staff, who in my eyes are the front line soldiers in this global pandemic.Due to the unprecedented demand for masks, healthcare system completely lacks the needed supplies and we are on a mission to outfit them. 

While they are our priority so is  the safety of my friends, neighbors, and countrymen. Many people with elderly parents, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, are at high risk, or want to protect their families have reached out. I know it’s hard to find masks of any kind anywhere.

(5) NEW ZEALAND. This year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand, has already announced they’re going virtual. The need for the decision can only be reinforced by the Prime Minister’s statement today: “Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern warns border restrictions will exist for some time”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned New Zealanders should get used to border restrictions in New Zealand and overseas, saying they’re likely to be in place “for some time”.

She said border restrictions overseas would likely persist until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, believed to be one year to eighteen months away at the earliest – some vaccines take a decade to develop. 

“We will be having to manage covid-19 for months, until of course there is a vaccine and that will be many months,” she said.

Ardern told RNZ: “I’m anticipating border restrictions for some time.”

(6) WRITING THEIR WAY OUT. Melinda Snodgrass, Robert Vardeman, and Walter Jon Williams answered the Albuquerque Journal’s questions in “Science fact & fiction: Three New Mexico authors see parallels between the genre they write and the current world situation”.

Life as it is now – with most of us confined to home, getting out only for a walk in the sunshine or a quick trip to pick up mail, prescriptions, another bottle of water, an extra loaf of bread – is something we might have read about in a science fiction novel, seen on TV or at the movies but never before experienced personally to the extent we are dealing with now.

“I feel like I’m in what (science fiction author) Brian Aldiss called a cozy catastrophe,” said Walter Jon Williams, a writer of science fiction and fantasy who lives in Belen. “We have clothing, shelter, enough food in the fridge to last a month, and everything works. But everyone is gone. We just don’t see people. I went for a walk to the park today and saw one person.”

(7) SWIPER, NO SWIPING. Publishers Weekly boosts the signal as “Authors Guild, AAP Outraged by IA’s ‘National Emergency Library'”.  

The outcry from publisher and author groups has been swift and furious after the Internet Archive announced last week the launch of it’s National Emergency Library, which has removed access restrictions for some 1.4 million scans of mostly 20th century books in the IA’s Open Library initiative, making the scans available for unlimited borrowing during the Covid-19 Outbreak.

“We are stunned by the Internet Archive’s aggressive, unlawful, and opportunistic attack on the rights of authors and publishers in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic,” reads a March 27 statement from Association of American Publishers president and CEO Maria Pallante, adding that publishers are already “working tirelessly to support the public with numerous, innovative, and socially-aware programs that address every side of the crisis: providing free global access to research and medical journals that pertain to the virus; complementary digital education materials to schools and parents; and expanding powerful storytelling platforms for readers of all ages.”

The Authors Guild said it too was “appalled” by the program. “[The Internet Archive] is using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors,” reads a March 27 statement. “It has misrepresented the nature and legality of the project through a deceptive publicity campaign. Despite giving off the impression that it is expanding access to older and public domain books, a large proportion of the books on Open Library are in fact recent in-copyright books that publishers and authors rely on for critical revenue. Acting as a piracy site—of which there already are too many—the Internet Archive tramples on authors’ rights by giving away their books to the world.”

In a statement on March 24, Edward Hasbrouck, co-chair of the National Writers’ Union ‘s book division also accused the IA of “using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse” to redistribute copyrighted works without permission or payment.

“So much for authors’ incomes in a time of crisis. Do librarians and archivists really want to kick authors while our incomes are down?” Hasbrouck writes. “The argument is that students need e-books while they are staying home. But that’s an argument for spending public funds to purchase or license those resources for public use — not putting the burden of providing educational materials for free on writers, illustrators, and photographers. Authors also need to eat and pay rent during this crisis.”

The Internet Archive announced the National Emergency Library project on March 24, in response to the closures of libraries during the Covid-19 crisis, building upon the Internet Archive’s “Controlled Digital Lending” program. …

(8) MANDEL OBIT. Playwright and screenwriter Loring Mandel died March 24. His 1959 script ”Project Immortality” for Playhouse 90 got him his first Emmy nomination: “Key defense scientist Doner has cancer. Schramm is assigned to code Doner’s thinking into a computer. He gets to know him as a friend, a husband and father. The project is successful, but he now knows identity is not programmable.”

He was the screenwriter for Countdown, released in 1967, the year before the first Moon landing: “Desperate to reach the moon first, N.A.S.A. sends a man and shelter separately, one-way. He must find it to survive. He can’t return until Apollo is ready.” The movie starred James Caan and Robert Duvall.

However, as The Hollywood Reporter tribute notes, he was more famous for non-genre work: “Loring Mandel, Screenwriter and ‘Advise and Consent’ Playwright, Dies at 91”. “Mandel earned five Emmy nominations during his career, winning twice: in 1968 for his work on an installment of CBS Playhouse and in 2001 for penning the BBC-HBO telefilm Conspiracy.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 30, 2013 Orphan Black premiered on BBC America in the USA and Space in Canada. Starring Tatiana Maslany as the clones, it run for five seasons and fifty episodes. It would win a Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Sasquan for “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series that ran twenty-four volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1927 Greta Thyssen. Labeled Queen of the B-Movies she appeared in a number of genre films such as The Beast of Budapest,  Creature from Blood Island andJourney to the Seventh Planet. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty-year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads a lot a similar Heinlein would. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey, it is genre of a sorts. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1943 Dennis Etchison. As editor, he received two World Fantasy Awards for Best Anthology, MetaHorror and The Museum of Horrors. As a writer, he’s best remembered as a short story writer of quite tasty horror. Talking in the Dark Is his personally selected collection of his stories. (Died 2019.)
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 62. Voice actor primarily for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 30. Nova Clarke in the Sharknado film series alongside Ian Ziering and Tara Reid (2013–2018). And one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM COMIC BOOKS TO HISTORY BOOKS. “Overlooked No More: Kate Worley, a Pioneer Writer of Erotic Comics”. The New York Times says “Worley, who wrote Omaha the Cat Dancer, about a feline stripper, ‘injected a woman’s point of view’ that helped the comic stand out from others in the 1980s.”

…At the heart of the series was the writer Kate Worley, who gave the comic its distinctive voice and helped cultivate its wide-ranging fan base.

The character Omaha, created by the writer and artist Reed Waller, made her debut in 1978 as part of a fanzine. She eventually found her way into her own comic book, beginning in 1984. But then Waller got writer’s block.

“He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue,” Worley wrote in an introduction to a 1989 collected edition of Omaha. So she offered some suggestions. “I chattered for some time about possible plot directions, new characters,” she said.

When she was finished, Waller asked, “Would you like a job?” Worley took over as the writer, while Waller continued to draw the comic.

(13) A CLASSIC AGES GRACEFULLY. Tor.com’s prolific James Davis Nicoll goes monster hunting: “Another One of Them New Worlds: Revisiting Forbidden Planet”.

…United Planets cruiser C-57D, under the command of Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen), was dispatched to Altair IV to find out what had happened to an expedition that had been sent out twenty years earlier. As soon as the starship arrives in orbit, C-57D receives a transmission from the surface. There is at least one survivor of the earlier mission. To Adams’ surprise, the survivor, scientist Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) doesn’t want to be rescued. Indeed, he warns the craft to go away if it wants to save its crew.

(14) HAULING THE FREIGHT. SpaceX has been selected as a contractor to deliver supplies to NASA’s Lunar Gateway station. “NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Gateway Logistics Services”.

NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, as the first U.S. commercial provider under the Gateway Logistics Services contract to deliver cargo, experiments and other supplies to the agency’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The award is a significant step forward for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.

At the Moon, NASA and its partners will gain the experience necessary to mount a historic human mission to Mars.

SpaceX will deliver critical pressurized and unpressurized cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway, such as sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface. 

(15) HE AM IRON MAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever decide to reboot, we may have found our new Iron Man…

(16) BEWARE THOSE DARNED SPOILERS. The Guardian’s Stephen Kelly doesn’t sound like a fan of the show: “Star Trek: Picard is the dark reboot that boldly goes where nobody wanted it to”. And did I mention, this article HAS SPOILERS?

It is the year 2364, and Jean-Luc Picard – the revered captain of the USS Enterprise – has just come face to face with three humans who have been frozen in time since the late 20th century. By this point in the story – the 1988 finale of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation – he has met Klingons, Romulans, a pool of black goo, but nothing is as alien as these greedy, selfish relics.

This is Star Trek, after all: the pop-culture behemoth built on the idealistic future envisioned in the 60s by its creator Gene Roddenberry. “A lot has changed in the past 300 years,” Picard tells them. “People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.”

Or have we? Revisiting the character 30 years later in Star Trek: Picard, Patrick Stewart’s grand return to the role at the age of 79, it seems the world has not progressed as much as we were led to believe. Set during a time in which the Federation – a union of planets with shared democratic values and interests – has turned isolationist in response to a terror attack, it has proved to be a divisively dark, gritty and morally bleak take on the Star Trek universe….

(17) TAKE IT IN STAGES. Harvard’s School of Public Health concludes that “On-again, off-again looks to be best social-distancing option”.

With global coronavirus cases heading toward half a million, Harvard infectious disease experts said recent modeling shows that — absent the development of a vaccine or other intervention — a staggered pattern of social distancing would save more lives than a one-and-done strategy and avoid overwhelming hospitals while allowing immunity to build in the population.

The work, conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and led by Yonatan Grad, the Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology, also shows that if strict social distancing such as that imposed in China — which cuts transmission by 60 percent — is relaxed, it results in epidemic peaks in the fall and winter similar in size and with similar impacts on the health care system as those in an uncontrolled epidemic.

“We looked at how it would affect the thing that matters most — overwhelming the critical-care unit,” Grad said.

The problem, the researchers said, is that while strict social distancing may appear to be the most effective strategy, little population-level immunity is developed to a virus that is very likely to come around again.

(18) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS. A lot of genre figures are getting in on the act – we learned about these three from Comicbook.com:

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Stay safe out there.

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[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. (* )Thanks to Bill Burns for the assist. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/10/19 Mean Old Pixels, Taught Me To Weep And Scroll

(1) BUILDING WITH STEEL. Juliette Wade brings “Paul Krueger and Steel Crow Saga” to Dive into Worldbuilding. Read the synopsis watch the video, or do both!

We had a great time talking with guest author Paul Krueger about his novel, Steel Crow Saga. Paul describes it as a love letter to Pokémon, and also as what would happen if Pokémon and Full Metal Alchemist had an anti-colonialist baby. He said he went way out on a limb with the book, using a different world with situations in it that are not average, and that it meant he had to draw on a lot more personal things in order to make it real and relatable.

… Paul told us that what really brought the book together was when he realized he was interested in the idea of forgiveness. Can you do the unforgiveable? Can you then forgive yourself afterwards? Returning to these questions kept him going.

He also said he believes in the forensic principle that all things that come in contact with each other leave traces behind. He applies this to characters. Watch what happens when two pairs of characters come in close proximity to each other. What happens if they switch “dance partners” for a while?

… I asked Paul about something he’d said online about fan art. Paul told us that his first book, Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, didn’t have any fan art. When he whined about it, he was told he’d only vaguely described the characters. In Steel Crow Saga, therefore, he made sure that each character had colors and symbols, their own animal, and distinct physical traits. Paul said, “I went really overboard with visual cues.” The good news is, he’s gotten lots of fan art this time! Paul says being friends with artists has made him a better writer. He listed Victoria Schwab and Erin Morganstern as writers with great visuals.

(2) SOUND OF SKYWALKER. Disney has created an entire ”for your consideration” website to recommend six films for awards – all of which happen to be genre-related.

As part of it, they have publicly shared 23 tracks of John Williams’ score for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

(3) LOCKED AND LOADED. There’s a vein of alternate history stories that dates back even farther than I was aware. Library of America’s story of the week, “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” by James Thurber, is part of it —

At the end of 1930 Scribner’s Magazine began publishing what would prove to be a short-lived series of “alternative history” pieces. The first installment, in the November issue, was “If Booth Had Missed Lincoln.” This was followed by a contribution from none other than Winston Churchill, who turned the concept on its head. It was bafflingly titled “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg”—but, as we all know, Lee didn’t win the Battle of Gettysburg. Instead, Churchill’s essay purported to be written by a historian in a world in which Lee had won not only the battle but also the entire war. This fictional historian, in turn, speculates what might have happened if Lee had not won the battle. This type of dizzying zaniness brought out the parodist in Thurber, who published “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” in The New Yorker in December. The next month Scribner’s published a third essay (“If Napoleon Had Escaped to America”) before bring the series to an end. All three pieces were soon forgotten, but Thurber’s parody became one of his most famous and beloved works.

The story can be read free at the link,

 (4) FATE OF FAN NEWS SITE TO BE DETERMINED. The editor of EUROPA SF (The Pan-European Speculative Fiction Portal) went on Facebook today intending to announce that it is “TIME TO SAY GOODBYE!”

Dear friends, after 7 years dedicated to the European Speculative Fiction, it’s time to say goodbye.

www.scifiportal.eu) will close on the 20th of December 2019.

If someone is interested to take over the portal and the domain’s name, kindly let us know. Thank you all of you !

Ukranian fan Borys Sydiuk immediately raised his hand – so perhaps the site will be kept online after all. Stay tuned.

(5) LAST CHANCE. Tim Szczesuil of the NESFA Press says they’re about to run out of two titles by popular sff writers:

This is an informative notice that we are getting low on The Halycon Fairy Book by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). At the rate it’s selling I expect to be out by the end of the month. If you’ve delayed getting a copy, this may be your last chance, since there are no plans to reprint.

On a similar note, we’re also getting low on Velveteen vs the Junior Super Patriots by Seanan McGuire. In this case, we do not have the rights to reprint, and Seanan is not disposed to grant anyone these rights. So, when they’re gone, that’s it.

You can order here.

(6) NO SPEAK WITHOUT NEWSPEAK. K.W. Colyard’s post “Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka and the Use of Language in Dystopian Science Fiction” for Tor.com shows the application of a linguistic claim to the field of science fiction.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is the most prominent example of this, by far, but the strict, legal regulation of language pops up in various science fiction novels and stories that follow Orwell’s. Inhabitants of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Green-sky have no means of expressing the negative emotions they feel, and are treated as social pariahs for being “unjoyful.” Ascians in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun do not understand any sentence constructions that do not appear in their government-issued manuals on “Correct Thought.” Lois Lowry’s The Giver portrays a society whose emotional range has been stunted by its insistence on “precise speech.”

First published in Sweden in 2012, Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka offers up a new, much more material take on language restriction—a world in which every object, from a chair to a pot of face cream, must be verbally told what it is and visibly labeled as such….

(7) IT NEVER ENDS. Paste Magazine came up with another list — “The 25 Best TV Episodes of 2019” – but this one has a solid genre showing. In the order Paste ranked them, here they are from lowest to highest.

  • “Adriadne,” Russian Doll
  • “Hard Times,” Good Omens
  • “Episode 4,” Years and Years
  • “Séance & Sensibility” Legends of Tomorrow
  • “Twin Cities,” Counterpart
  • “Pandemonium,” The Good Place
  • “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows
  • “Time to Make … My Move,” The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
  • “Vichnaya Pamyat,” Chernobyl

20. “Hard Times,” Good Omens

Good Omens is a series that tackles more than its fair share of deep philosophical issues, telling a story about hope, love and faith in one another during the literal end of the world. But despite the somewhat pressing nature of the impending Apocalypse, Good Omens spends most of its third episode exploring the complicated pair at the heart of story: prissy angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and snarky demon Crowley (David Tennant).

…Not bad for a sequence that, technically shouldn’t exist. None of these flashbacks appear in the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel on which the show is based and were specially written for the Amazon series. God—or Gaiman himself in this case— does indeed work in mysterious ways. —Lacy Baugher

(8) SQUIRRELED AWAY? Jason Kottke figured out why he didn’t immediately burn through the entire catalog of works by writers he loves: “My Strategic Book Reserve – Banking Unread Books from Favorite Authors”.

… Part of it is that I’m a restless and then forgetful reader. Even after finishing an amazing book, I often want to switch gears to something different and then I fail to return to something else by the amazing book’s author. But mainly I do this on purpose. I like the feeling of looking forward to a sure thing, the comfort of a story I haven’t heard but I know will be good.

(9) BREAKFAST WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. Melinda Snodgrass posted a photo on Facebook of the Death Star toaster she got for her birthday in November. It’s supposed to brand little Tie fighters on the bread.

(10) THE WITCHER CHARACTER INTRODUCTIONS. You can’t outrun destiny just because you’re terrified of it. The Witcher arrives December 20.

  • Henry Cavill is Geralt of Rivia.
  • Freya Allan is Princess Cirilla.
  • Anya Chalotra is Yennefer of Vengerberg.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 10, 1815 Ada Lovelace. Lovelace was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron. She was an English mathematician and writer, principally known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Genre usage includes Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine, Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers and Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. (Died 1852.)
  • Born December 10, 1824 George MacDonald. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors Including Tolkien and Lewis, Gaiman and L’Engle, Beagle and Twain to name but a few. I’d single out. The Princess and The Goblin and Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women as particularly fine reading. (Died 1905.)
  • Born December 10, 1918 Anne Gwynne. One of the first scream queens because of her numerous appearances in horror films such as The Strange Case of Doctor Rx, Weird Women (with Lou Chaney) and The House of Frankenstein (Chaney and Karloff).  And she also was one of the most popular pin-ups of World War II. She’s Chris Pine’s grandmother. (Died 2003.) Photo is from a set of twenty four trading cards. 
  • Born December 10, 1927 Anthony Coburn. Australian writer and producer who spent most of his career living and working in the U.K.  He was closely involved in the earliest days of Who to the extent that it’s believed it was his idea for the Doctor’s travelling companion, Susan, to be The Doctor’s granddaughter.  He wrote four scripts for the show, of which only An Unearthly Child was used. (Died 1977.)
  • Born December 10, 1928 John Colicos. You’ll recognize him as being the first Klingon ever seen on classic Trek, Commander Kor in “Errand of Mercy” episode. (He’d reprise that role as the 140-year-old Kor in three episodes of Deep Space Nine.) He’ll next show up as Count Baltar in the original Battlestar Galactica continuity throughout the series and film. He’ll even show up as the governor of Umakran in the Starlost episode “The Goddess Calabra”. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 10, 1933 Mako. It’s sounds weird but I mostly remember him in Robocop 3 as Kanemitsu and in a role on the Lovejoy series that only lasted two episodes. He’s had one-offs on I-Spy, I Dream of Jeannie, Green Hornet, Time Tunnel, Fantasy Island and quite a bit more. Among his genre film appearances, I think I’ll just single out Conan the Destroyer in which he plays Akiro the Wizard. (Died 2006.)
  • Born December 10, 1946 Douglas Kenney. He co-founded National Lampoon in 1970 along with Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman. With Beard alone in 1969, he wrote Bored of the Rings. (Died 1980.)
  • Born December 10, 1960 Kenneth Branagh, 59. Oh, Branagh, I feel obligated to start with your worst film, Wild Wild West, which, well, had you no shame? Fortunately, there’s much better genre work from you as an actor including as Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As a Director, I’m only seeing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Thor — Anyone know of anything else genre related? Is Hercule Poirot genre adjacent?
  • Born December 10, 1984 Helen Oyeyemi, 35. I like it when a Birthday results in my adding to my audiobook listening list. She’s resident in Prague now and her take on European folktales that surround her there is particularly sharp in her latest, Mr. Fox, off of that well known tale. And White is for Witching has all the makings of a damn fine haunted house story.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest indirectly prove the benefits of being young – because with luck you may not be old enough to remember the commercial that sets up this pun.

(13) CONNIE WILLIS AT CHRISTMAS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] For a few years, I’ve been invited onto a podcast to speak about Christmas movies. This year, I took the opportunity to talk about how great Connie Willis is by suggesting the (*very bad*) Christmas movie Snow Wonder which was based on Willis’ (*very good*) novella Just Like The Ones We Used To Know. Even though the movie’s a relatively faithful adaptation, it’s shocking how much life they manage to drain from Willis’ work. The Movie Jerks — Episode 372 – Olav Rokne, The Christmas Prince Royal Baby and Snow Wonder

Olav Rokne is back to talk about for his yearly Christmas film review. This time we may have broke our guest, as we discuss the television film “Snow Wonder” and the third installment in the “Christmas Prince” series. 

(14) VARIABLE PRICING TEST. The Hollywood Reporter’s article “‘Playmobil’: Anatomy of an Epic Box Office Bomb” is more of an autopsy than an anatomy.

Not even $5 tickets could save STXfilms’ animated pic, which is being called the biggest test to date of variable pricing by U.S. movie theaters.

… STXfilms is hardly alone in urging exhibitors to consider variable pricing as a means of supporting titles that aren’t major event pics.

However, box office analysts say Playmobil isn’t an accurate barometer, noting that only a minimal $3 million was spent on marketing the movie, far from enough to ignite widespread awareness.

(15) DNA CHAOS. It’s in the New York Times, but it’s not “Dear Abby” — “When a DNA Test Says You’re a Younger Man, Who Lives 5,000 Miles Away”.

Three months after his bone marrow transplant, Chris Long of Reno, Nev., learned that the DNA in his blood had changed. It had all been replaced by the DNA of his donor, a German man he had exchanged just a handful of messages with.

He’d been encouraged to test his blood by a colleague at the Sheriff’s Office, where he worked. She had an inkling this might happen. It’s the goal of the procedure, after all: Weak blood is replaced by healthy blood, and with it, the DNA it contains.

…The implications of Mr. Long’s case, which was presented at an international forensic science conference in September, have now captured the interest of DNA analysts far beyond Nevada.

The average doctor does not need to know where a donor’s DNA will present itself within a patient. That’s because this type of chimerism is not likely to be harmful. Nor should it change a person. “Their brain and their personality should remain the same,” said Andrew Rezvani, the medical director of the inpatient Blood & Marrow Transplant Unit at Stanford University Medical Center.

He added that patients also sometimes ask him what it means for a man to have a woman’s chromosomes in their bloodstream or vice versa. “It doesn’t matter,” he said….

But for a forensic scientist, it’s a different story. The assumption among criminal investigators as they gather DNA evidence from a crime scene is that each victim and each perpetrator leaves behind a single identifying code — not two, including that of a fellow who is 10 years younger and lives thousands of miles away. And so Renee Romero, who ran the crime lab at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, saw an opportunity when her friend and colleague told her that his doctor had found a suitable match on a donor website and he would be undergoing a bone marrow transplant.

(16) COLLECTING BUSINESS. One thing’s for sure – I don’t own any of these valuable editions: “Signed Harry Potter book bought for 1p ‘could fetch thousands'”.

A collector with more than 1,000 Harry Potter books is hoping to fetch thousands of pounds by auctioning off some of his rarest items.

Mark Cavoto began trading books from the series after noticing how well they sold on online auction site eBay.

Among the books being sold by Mr Cavoto is a first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets signed by author JK Rowling, bought for 1p plus postage.

The auction takes place at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire on Thursday.

The signed book is expected to fetch from £1,800 to £2,500, with other first editions expected to collect hundreds of pounds each.

Mr Cavoto, 51, from Buxton in Derbyshire, said he saw a “business opportunity” when he sold some of his daughter’s old Harry Potter books on eBay.

“I checked the ISBN numbers and sourced the same three books second-hand on Amazon, bought them for a penny each plus postage and sold them in minutes for £9.99 each on eBay,” he said.

Mr Cavoto began buying books from the series “for next to nothing at charity shops and online”, which led him to discovering signed copies and first editions.

(17) BOOK BURNING. According to Quartz, “A Chinese library’s book-burning orgy echoes dark chapters in the country’s history”.  

In a photo that circulated on Chinese social media on the weekend, workers at a library located in Zhenyuan county in north-central Gansu province were shown burning books in an act the library described (link in Chinese) as a “quick and comprehensive” filtering and destruction of “illegal” publications, including books related to religion. The library said it wanted to enhance its function as a major propaganda tool in terms of promoting mainstream Chinese values. The post, which was originally published on Oct. 22, has since been deleted.

In total, the library destroyed 65 books under the supervision of officials from the Zhenyuan culture affairs bureau, according to the post. Zhenyuan’s propaganda department told a local Chinese publication (link in Chinese) that it was looking into the incident.

Under Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s tightening grip on the freedom of speech, religion, and ideas, authorities have been conducting a large scale clean-up of books in libraries in elementary and middle schools since October, according to a notice (link in Chinese) published by the Ministry of Education. The ministry ordered schools to remove books deemed “illegal” or “inappropriate,” including those that are “against the ideologies of the party,” “describe the party, the nation, or the military’s history in a mocking way,” or “promote religious doctrine, theory, and rules.”

The episode stirred an unusual backlash on Chinese social media, with many saying that it reminded them of the country’s painful history of repressing intellectuals and academic freedom. Many cited the example of the tyrannical emperor Qin Shihuang, who unified China more than 2,000 years ago and directed the “burning the books and burying the scholars” …movement which led to some 460 Confucian scholars being buried alive for their opposition against imperial policies.

(18) WOUND. “Seafloor scar of Bikini A-bomb test still visible”.

The date was 25 July 1946. The location – Bikini Atoll. The event – only the fifth A-bomb explosion and the first-ever detonation under water.

The pictures we’ve all seen: A giant mushroom cloud climbing out of the Pacific, sweeping up ships that had been deliberately left in harm’s way to see what nuclear war was capable of.

Now, 73 years later, scientists have been back to map the seafloor.

A crater is still present; so too the twisted remains of all those vessels.

“Bikini was chosen because of its idyllic remoteness and its large, easily accessible lagoon,” explains survey team-leader Art Trembanis from the University of Delaware.

“At the time, [the famous American comedian] Bob Hope quipped, ‘as soon as the war ended, we found the one spot on Earth that had been untouched by the war and blew it to hell’.”

(19) FAMILY AFFAIR. “Grandmother killer whales boost survival of calves” – BBC has the story.

Grandmother killer whales boost the survival rates of their grandchildren, a new study has said.

The survival rates were even higher if the grandmother had already gone through the menopause.

The findings shed valuable light on the mystery of the menopause, or why females of some species live long after they lose the ability to reproduce.

Only five known animals experience it: killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, belugas, narwhals and humans.

With humans, there is some evidence that human grandmothers aid in the survival of their children and grandchildren, a hypothesis called the “grandmother effect”.

These findings suggest the same effect occurs in orcas.

(20) THE LONG AND WINDING FILM. The Criterion Collection has available Wim Wenders’ director’s cut of Until the End of the World, the 1991 French-German science fiction drama film.

Conceived as the ultimate road movie, this decades-in-the-making science-fiction epic from Wim Wenders follows the restless Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) across continents as she pursues a mysterious stranger (William Hurt) in possession of a device that can make the blind see and bring dream images to waking life. With an eclectic soundtrack that gathers a host of the director’s favorite musicians, along with gorgeous cinematography by Robby Müller, this breathless adventure in the shadow of Armageddon takes its heroes to the ends of the earth and into the oneiric depths of their own souls. Presented here in its triumphant 287-minute director’s cut, Until the End of the World assumes its rightful place as Wenders’ magnum opus, a cosmic ode to the pleasures and perils of the image and a prescient meditation on cinema’s digital future.

(21) FREE DOWNLOAD. “New NASA eBook Reveals Insights of Earth Seen at Night from Space”.

Earth has many stories to tell, even in the dark of night. Earth at Night, NASA’s new 200-page ebook, is now available online and includes more than 150 images of our planet in darkness as captured from space by Earth-observing satellites and astronauts on the International Space Station over the past 25 years.

The images reveal how human activity and natural phenomena light up the darkness around the world, depicting the intricate structure of cities, wildfires and volcanoes raging, auroras dancing across the polar skies, moonlight reflecting off snow and deserts, and other dramatic earthly scenes.

…In addition to the images, the book tells how scientists use these observations to study our changing planet and aid decision makers in such areas as sustainable energy use and disaster response.

  • Kindle readers: MOBI [42 MB]
  • All other eBook readers: EPUB [45 MB]
  • PDF readers: PDF [39 MB]

(22) FORMATION FLYING. Amazon is going all-out to advertise The Expanse Season 4.

The Expanse drone space opera lit up the sky at the 2019 Intersect Festival in Las Vegas.

There’s also a 6-minute version shot at ground level here.

(23) DIY AT HOME. Jimmy Kimmel Live showed everyone the way to “Make Your Own Baby Yoda.” (He’s kidding, okay? Just kidding!!)

Baby Yoda is a very cute and popular character from “The Mandalorian,” but according to Disney, which owns Star Wars, Baby Yoda toys will not be available for Christmas. However, if you want a Baby Yoda for your kid or your adult nerd help is on the way. Guillermo demonstrates a simple way for anyone to make their own little Yoda at home.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, N., Bill, Juliette Wade, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 5/25/19 The Stars Not Your Destination? Recalculating…

(1) BACK FROM THE NEBULAS. Connie Willis shares with Facebook readers some of her info from the “We Have Always Been Here” panel —

At the Nebula Awards weekend in Los Angeles this last week I was on a panel with Sarah Pinsker, Cat Rambo, and Eileen Gunn called “We Have Always Been Here,” about early women SF writers. We discussed a bunch of them and decided to follow up with a Twitter hashtag–#AlwaysBeenHere–and discussions on our blogs and Facebook pages of these terrific (and sometimes nearly forgotten) writers.

One of the reasons their names aren’t well-known now is that they, like everybody else in SF at the time, were writing short stories rather than novels, so their stuff can be hard to find. Great writers like Fredric Brown, Ward Moore, and Philip Latham found themselves in the same boat.

Here are some of the women writers I’d like to see be read by a new generation…

(2) UNREAD WORD POWER. Cedar Sanderson expands our vocabulary in “Tsunduko Tsundere” at Mad Genius Club.

…My daughter explained to me that tsundere is ‘typically someone who acts like they don’t want something, but they really do.’ In anime or manga it’s actually a romantic style. Argues with the one they are attracted to, but inside they are all lovebirds and sighs. I am feeling a bit like this in my current relationship with books, in particular paper books.

(3) HERO PICKER. In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao profiles Sarah Finn, who, as the casting director of Marvel, has cast more than 1,000 roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, and Tom Hiddleston:

The risk paid off. Downey’s performance as the morally torn superhero anchors the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga, which began with 2008?s “Iron Man” and concluded 21 films later with last month’s box-office behemoth, “Avengers: Endgame.” It’s difficult to imagine anyone but him in that role — a statement that could extend to any of the heroes, really.

That’s largely thanks to Finn, who took on the gargantuan task of casting every actor who appears in the MCU (aside from those in “The Incredible Hulk,” released a month after “Iron Man”). That amounts to more than a thousand roles overall, she says, ranging from characters as high-profile as Captain America to those as minor as his background dancers. The job — which Finn held for the first five MCU films alongside Randi Hiller, who now heads casting for live-action projects at Walt Disney Studios — calls for a certain prescience, the ability to predict what sort of traits an actor would one day be asked to exhibit in films that have yet to be written.

(4) STAN LEE ELDER ABUSE. Variety reports “Stan Lee’s Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges”.

Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department.

The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, special aggravated white collar crime loss of over $100k; and one count of elder or dependent adult abuse.

The investigation into whether Stan Lee was the subject of elder abuse began in March 2018 stemming from actions allegedly taken by Morgan in May and June of 2018.

The grand theft charges stem from $262,000 that was collected from autograph signing sessions in May 2018, but that Lee never received.

(5) MORE ON JACK COHEN. Jonathan Cowie writes —

The funeral was mainly a family affair with Ian Stewart and I representing SF, and in addition to myself there were a couple of other biologists.

However there were over a hundred messages sent in to family.  And a few tributes read out including one from Nobel Laureate Prof. Sir Paul Nurse who was one of Jack’s student and who praised his teaching saying that every university departments needs its Jack Cohen.

  • Read Jonathan Cowie’sown tribute on his personal site.
  • And he’s archived an article he commissioned from Jack for Biologist way back in the 1990s on alien life here.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 25, 1953It Came From Outer Space premiered (story by Ray Bradbury).

May 25, 1969 — The first shave in space took place on Apollo 10.

May 25, 1977 Star Wars: A New Hope premiered on this day.

May 25, 1979 — Ridley Scott’s Alien debuts.

May 25, 1983 Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi in theatres.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 25, 1808 Edward Bulwer-Lytton. In addition, the opening seven words from Paul Clifford : “It was a dark and stormy night”, he also coined the phrases “the great unwashed”, “pursuit of the almighty dollar” and “the pen is mightier than the sword.” ISFDB credits him with eight genre novels including The Coming RaceAsmodeus at Large and Last Days of Pompeii to name but three. He wrote a lot of short fiction with titles such as “Glenhausen.—The Power of Love in Sanctified Places.— A Portrait of Frederick Barbarossa.—The Ambition of Men Finds Adequate Sympathy in Women”. (Died 1873.)
  • Born May 25, 1916 Charles D. Hornig. Publisher of the Fantasy Fan which ran from September ‘33 to February ‘35 and including first publication of works by Bloch, Lovecraft, Smith, Howard and Derleth. It also had a LOC called ‘The Boiling Point’ which quickly became angry exchanges between several of the magazine’s regular contributors, including Ackerman, Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. He paid for the costs of Fan Fantasy by working for Gernsback at Wonder Stories. (Died 1999.)
  • Born May 25, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well known that Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 80. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s going to be Gus the Theatre Cat in the forthcoming Cats
  • Born May 25, 1946 Frank Oz, 73. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise.
  • Born May 25, 1946 Janet Morris, 73. Hey I get to mention Thieves’ World! Yea! In that universe, she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She has three series, both listed as SF though I’d call one of them fantasy, the Silistra quartet, the Kerrion Space trilogy and the Threshold series. 
  • Born May 25, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 70. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon.
  • Born May 25, Kathryn Daugherty. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here, including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 25, 1962 Mickey Zucker Reichert, 57. She’s best know for her Renshai series which riffs off traditional Norse mythology. She was asked by the Asimov estate to write three prequels in the I, Robot series. She’s the only female to date who’s written authorized stories. 
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 53. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies, Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics takes “A Writer’s Routine” from A to Z.

(9) URSULA VERNON. A hound wants out of this chicken outfit. Thread starts here.

(10) EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS. ComicsBeat’s Hannah Lodge advances “5 reasons DOOM PATROL is the best superhero show of the decade”. Reason number one —

Power Patrol 

The Doom Patrol isn’t a team of shiny superheroes, a team of super-villains working to thwart those heroes, or even bad guys with a change of heart. They’re flawed, but trying, and their quests are less of the greater-good variety and more of the personal, soul-searching kind (even if they do casually prevent an apocalypse or two along the way). Each of the team members has your standard issue set of powers. What’s different about this show is the way they view and use them: as consequences and reminders of the mistakes they made in life they must learn to use and accept rather than invitations to a virtuous or higher moral calling. It’s refreshing to see this team as a found family working for smaller stakes and through very human issues – more often through things like superhero therapy than sprawling battles.

(11) OBJECTION. We’ve all heard sf stories get criticized for bad science – but what happens when a Real Lawyer Reacts to Star Trek TNG Measure of a Man — an episode written by Melinda Snodgrass?

When Starfleet officer Maddox orders Data’s disassembly for research purposes, Data is thrust into a legal battle to determine if he is entitled to the rights enjoyed by sentient beings. Data tries to resign his commission but Starfleet won’t let him. Worse, against his will, Commander Riker is ordered to advocate against Data. Captain Picard must defend Data in a trial for his life. Is it a realistic trial? Does Data deserves all the rights and privileges of a Starfleet officer? IS DATA A REAL PERSON?!

(12) LINGO SLINGING. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk profiles linguist David J. Peterson, who created the Valyrian and Dothraki languages for Game of Thrones in “a 600-page document owned by HBO”.  Peterson explains he began his career by being irritated at a scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi where Princess Leia includes the words “yate” and “yoto” to mean “a wookie; a bounty; a thermal detonator, and 50,000 space credits.” Selk also profiles several other creators of imaginary languages, including Jessie Sams, who teaches a course in imaginary languages at Stephen F. Austin State University. “How a community of obscure language inventors made it big with ‘Game of Thrones’”

A running joke in “Game of Thrones” has Peter Dinklage’s character, Tyrion, repeatedly butchering the Valyrian language, despite his best efforts.

In the episode last Sunday, he’s trying to ask a military guard for permission to see a prisoner and comes up with: “Nyke m?zun ipradagon bartanna r?elio.” A subtitle on the screen translates this for us as: “I drink to eat the skull keeper.”

When the guard stares at him in confusion, Tyrion tries again but only utters more gibberish. Finally, the guard informs him in perfect English, “I speak the common tongue,” and takes him to see the prisoner. Hah.

It’s a simple gag on its face, but there’s a deeper layer. The language Tyrion is garbling actually exists….

(13) FOR THE ROCKET. James Reid’s assessment of a Hugo finalist category: “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 – Short Story”.

I like short stories to be self-contained: a good idea or a complete story.  As such I often gravitate to stories that are focused on doing one thing well.   It also means that I tend to prefer vignettes, where Hugo short stories can be surprisingly long (7500 words or less).

Note: it’s hard to discuss a short story without spoilers, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to my rankings and general comments.

(14) RETRO REVIEWS. Right this way to Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Hugo Novella Reviews.

There’s always one on each ballot–one finalist that is totally unavailable–and this year it is “Attitude” by Hal Clement. This will not stop it from winning, of course; Clifford Simak’s “Rule 18” won a Retro Hugo in 2014 for its 1939 publication, and it had been reprinted since only once–in Italian. I think I can safely say that he won on name-recognition, and the same could happen with Clement. (“Attitude” is available in NESFA’s Clement collection, but I have no access to it.)…

(15) THE WRIGHT STUFF. Steve J. Wright has completed his Lodestar YA Novel Finalist reviews.

(16) SCIENCE ESSAY CONTEST. Nature has launched a young writers nonfiction contest to find the most inspiring ideas about the research of the future.

This year, Nature turns 150 years old. To mark this occasion, we are celebrating our past but also looking to the future. We would like to hear from you. Nature is launching an essay competition for readers aged 18 to 25. We invite you to tell us, in an essay of no more than 1,000 words, what scientific advance, big or small, you would most like to see in your lifetime, and why it matters to you. We want to feature the inspiring voices and ideas of the next generation

The deadline for completed essays is midnight GMT, UK time, on 9thAugust 2019. The winner will have their essay published in our 150th anniversary issue on 7 November, and receive a cash prize (£500 or $ equivalent) as well as a year’s personal subscription to the journal. For further information and to submit, visit go.nature.com/30y5jkz. We are looking for essays that are well reasoned, well researched, forward-looking, supported by existing science, and leave room for personal perspective and anecdotes that show us who you are. We encourage you to entertain as well as to inform; we are not looking for academic papers, an academic writing style or science fiction (though clearly those with an SF interest may have interesting ideas.

(17) BIG BANG’S BREXIT. Okay, it’s safe to talk about The Big Bang Theory again — its final show has aired in the British Isles and western Europe. British media reaction includes:-

(18) ANOTHER LEGO BRICK IN THE WALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Ars Technica: “Massive Lego National Cathedral built with Vader, droids, Harry Potter wands’. The National Cathedral is using LEGOs to raise money for a restoration fund, and is including sff references (see added emphasis below) in the 1:40 scale model structure.

As millions of dollars in donations stacked up for the Notre-Dame Cathedral following the horrific fire last month, the Washington National Cathedral was quietly building its own restoration fund—brick by plastic brick.

[…] [Instructions were] created by the designers and professional Lego aficionados at Bright Bricks—are used by volunteers and kind donors who buy individual bricks and place them on the growing replica by hand. The bricks go for $2 each and all the money goes toward the $19 million needed to repair damage from a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in 2011.

[…] While the size of the project is impressive, what’s perhaps more remarkable is that Santos is designing and assembling only with off-the-shelf Lego bricks. This requires some creative workarounds and repurposing of parts. Small stone angels that sit at the foot of the tomb of Bishop Henry Yates Satterlee (the first Episcopal bishop of Washington and a key figure in the Cathedral’s construction) are represented by Star Wars droid heads. Part of the ornaments along a stained-glass window are made of droid arms. A cross at the altar of the basement chapel (Bethlehem Chapel) is made of Lego tire irons, and an ornate railing on the outside of the back of the cathedral is made of Harry Potter wands. The Lego cathedral will also include a Darth Vader head, replicating the actual Darth Vader “gargoyle” that sits high on the Northwest tower.

(19) RELEASE THE KAIJU. The “Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Knock You Out – Exclusive Final Look.” Movie comes to theaters May 31.

Following the global success of “Godzilla” and “Kong: Skull Island” comes the next chapter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ cinematic MonsterVerse, an epic action adventure that pits Godzilla against some of the most popular monsters in pop culture history. The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, P J Evans, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/19 Ain’t No Sound But The Sound Of His Scroll, His Pixel Ready To Go

(1) STOLEN HEARTS. Another romance writer has been accused of plagiarism: the #CopyPasteCris row involves accusations that Cristiane Serruya lifted large sections of her romance novels from works by Courtney Milan and other writers, then blamed the mess on a ghostwriter she’d hired. One side-effect is that the Romance Writers of America is under pressure to either bar ghostwritten works from its awards or insist such works are identified as such when submitted. Will there be calls for sff and horror organizations to follow suit?

Milan said a reader alerted her to the wording issue in Serruya’s book, and tweeted, “I’m not exactly sure how to proceed from here, but I will be seeking legal counsel.”

Milan is a lawyer who used to teach intellectual property law at Seattle University.

Then the story became much larger. On Twitter, Milan and other authors and readers began posting passages from Serruya’s work that appeared to be lifted from other sources, sometimes using the hashtag #CopyPasteCris.

On Tuesday morning, Serruya initially seemed to deny the charges, tweeting at Milan, “Good morning, @courtneymilan I just woke up to this and I am astonished. I would have never, ever, done this. I am in this writing for a few years now and I am also a lawyer. Could we perhaps talk?”

Shortly after her first tweet, Serruya tweeted that her book did, indeed, contain plagiarism, which she blamed on a ghostwriter she had hired through Fiverr, a service that matches freelance creative professionals with those who want to hire them for gigs.

…Other authors and readers, per Milan’s advice, looked into the book to make sure Serruya had not stolen even more writers’ intellectual property. Boy howdy, the results…

…But wait, the plot thickens. Not only was this hodgepodge of a book submitted to the RITA contest, but Serruya was also judging some categories.

Let’s recap, shall we?

  1. “Author” Cristiane Serruya published a book, allegedly ghostwritten, full of stolen words and others’ intellectual property.
  2. She submitted this book for consideration to an award that Ms. Milan was previously not allowed to submit.
  3. She played a role in which books won in America’s most prestigious awards in the romance genre.
  4. When called out for it, she lied.
  5. When lies got her nowhere, she attempted to shift the blame.
  6. As of this writing, Serruya has taken down Royal Love. She has not, however, taken down Royal Affair, which apparently also contains stolen intellectual property from romance superstars.

(2) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. SYFY Wire wishes they had the key — “Lord of the Rings writers locked in guarded room at Amazon Studios”.

The new Lord of the Rings series from Amazon is being kept more secret from fans than the One Ring was from the Elven-kings, Dwarf-lords, and Mortal Men. Apart from very vague and mysterious teases like a map laden with Easter eggs, Tolkien fans know next to nothing about the upcoming series that hopes to somehow co-exist with Peter Jackson’s fantasy films after the latter defined Middle-earth for a generation. And that’s partially because of how Amazon’s writer’s room is protected.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the team responsible for creating the first season of LotR TV has been even more isolated than Gollum in his cave….

(3) HOW AMAZING IS THAT? Steve Davidson is adding a convention to his brand: “Announcing Amazingcon® (Very Preliminary)” .

The micron itself? A one day affair, consisting of two panels, a catered lunch break, a mini-dealers room and art show, bringing in two regionally popular guests, open to attendance of between 100 and 250 (max), designed to appeal to two distinct but related audiences: local folks familiar with the GoHs who would like a more intimate experience with them and local fans who want to experience a traditional convention for the first time, without having to commit to a full weekend, the travel and lodging requirements and etc.

This is currently a test-case, is expected to take place in Manchester, NH (or relatively close by) and is expected to happen in a 2020 time frame.  (Very local helps keep associated expenses down.)

We expect to replicate nearly everything a traditional, weekend long convention does;  there’ll be membership badges and registration, panels with Q&A, an opening and closing ceremonies and even what we’re calling A “Dead Dog Dinner Party” for our GoHs, staff and selected members of the convention….

(4) HE GETS BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS. The Yorkshire Post talked to one of Interzone’s co-founders about what he overcame to write his new book: “Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis has not stopped Leeds sci-fi and fantasy writer Simon Ounsley”

…When Simon Ounsley was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease six years ago, he felt any chance to have a fiction book published had slipped from his grasp. But he has continued to write with the help of voice activation software and now has a children’s story on sale and another in the pipeline. “I have wanted to write fiction all my life,” he says. “But except for a few short stories, I was never able to secure the interest of an agent or publisher.

…“I had almost decided I should try to self-publish a children’s novel I had written, when an extraordinary stroke of luck led to me finding a publisher.”

That publishing firm is Journey Fiction, run by writer Jennifer Farey from Las Vegas, USA. Simon had been in touch with her husband Nic through science fiction fanzines and asked him to take a look at the book last September. He offered to show it to Jennifer and on December 1 The Shop on Peculiar Hill was released, available through Amazon and online bookstores.

It is in the sci-fi genre that Simon has done much of his writing, including for fanzines from 1978. He was one of eight people who launched fantasy and science fiction magazine Interzone in 1982. Still in existence today, it is the longest running British sci-fi magazine in history. Harrogate-born Simon was involved for six years.

(5) TROLLS HAMMER CAPTAIN MARVEL. Captain Marvel had a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97% rating a few weeks ago, but the trolls went to work and pushed it down to 63%. Stylist phrased the news this way — “Sexist trolls are targeting Captain Marvel with fake bad reviews”:

Over here in the Stylist.co.uk offices we know that women are strong and smart and powerful and awe-inspiring. We celebrate this on a daily basis. But there are many out there who aren’t as comfortable watching a female superhero save the world in such spectacular fashion.

And they’re all trolls lurking in the swampy backwaters of the internet.

A campaign spearheaded by sexist social media users to target Captain Marvel with negative reviews has hit Rotten Tomatoes today. The idea, according to these users, is to ensure that the movie’s audience score is impacted and reduced.

Just to be clear, the film hasn’t even been released yet. But that hasn’t stopped people leaving negative comments on the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes’ page anyway. These reviews target the film’s female-led subject matter and star Larson’s commitment to utilise inclusion riders on the press tour for the movie to ensure that female, disabled and people of colour journalists are given preference for interview time. 

(6) HORROR’S HISTORIC SOURCES. Jess Nevins, author of the forthcoming book A Chilling Age of Horror: How 20th Century Horror Fiction Changed The Genre, illuminates “A short history of 20th century African-American horror literature”:

In a very real sense horror, in the form of slavery, was a part of the African-American experience from the beginning. Unsurprisingly, horror was a part of African-American narratives from the first as well. The folklore, legends, and myths brought over from Africa during the Middle Passage and turned into oral literature by the slaves was one significant element of pre-twentieth century African-American horror literature.1 A second, which long outlasted the African folklore and legends as a source of African-American horror, was the Gothic, which in its “Afro-Gothic” form was as popular by the end of the twentieth century as it was in its more primitive form centuries earlier.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He made 3 trips around the earth in his Mercury-Atlas spacecraft, Friendship 7, in just under 5 hours.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen television episodes of The Twilight Zone, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana Paxson, 76. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily coloured with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1945 Brion James. Without doubt best known for his portrayal of Leon Kowalski in Bladerunner. He did have a number of genre roles including playing Stubbs in Enemy Mine, Tank in Steel Dawn, Stacy in Cherry 2000, Staten Jack Rose in Wishman, Maritz in Nemesis… Well you get the idea. He appeared in myriad low budget, not terribly good genre films after Bladerunner. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 65. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1972 Nick Mamatas, 47. Writer and editor. His fiction is of a decidedly Lovecraftian bent which can be seen in Move Under Ground which also has a strong Beat influence. It is worth noting that his genre fiction often strays beyond genre walls into other genres as he sees fit. He has also been recognised for his editorial work including translating Japanese manga with a Bram Stoker Award, as well as World Fantasy Award and Hugo Award nominations. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit scores with this Marie Kondo/Star Wars gag.
  • In Frazz, they discuss how SJW credentials view food.

(10) VERTLIEB ON TV. Film historian Steve Vertlieb appeared in an episode of Counter Culture, a local PBS talk show, that aired last night. You can watch the episode at the link.

I want to thank popular comedian and radio personality Grover Silcox for inviting me share a delightful segment of his new “Counter Culture” television interview series which aired last night on WLVT TV, Channel 39 Public Television in Allentown. We sat together at the famed Daddypops Diner in Hatboro, Pennsylvania where the wonderful series is filmed, and talked about the long history of Monster Movies. For anyone who didn’t catch it last night, the program is available on line by accessing the link below. You’ll find my segment in the middle of Episode No. 3.

 (11) SHOES FOR INDUSTRY! [Item by Andrew.] Robert Sheckley is now writing our reality. Cnet reports: “Nike’s Android app doesn’t run well with its Adapt BB self-tying shoes”.

A faulty app has tripped up Nike’s $350 self-tying shoes.

Nike released the Adapt BB, its tech-infused sneaker, on Sunday during the NBA’s All-Star game, along with an app that can control the shoe’s fit and light-up colors.

You’re able to loosen and tighten the sneakers through two buttons on the sneaker’s side, but Nike executives talked up the app experience, saying that it would also help you with your fitness activities in the future.

The Adapt BB needed a firmware update in its first week, which could only be installed via an iOS or Android app, Nike executives said in January.

But for people using Android, the app for the self-tying sneakers hasn’t been a perfect fit. Multiple reviews for the Nike Adapt app on Google’s Play Store said that it hasn’t connected to the left shoe, and an update rendered the sneaker’s main feature useless.

Usually bricking tend to render devices completely useless, at least the Adapt BB just turns into a regular pair of sneakers. You’re also still able to control the fit through the buttons on the side.

(12) THE CASTLE WILL CLOSE. The Verge: “The Man in the High Castle will end with season 4, trailer reveals”. Sean Hollister writes:

I think I’ve come to a realization — most of my current favorite TV shows are only still favorites because I’m waiting for them to come to what seems like an inevitably gruesome end. I’m a deer in the headlights, hoping that in a world where death and dismay is around every corner, the Game of Thrones cast might actually find their final rest; the handmaids in The Handmaid’s Tale might permanently escape their torture and mutilation the only way that seems plausible; Westworld will see the robots triumph over humanity (yes I’m in that camp); and that Killing Eve might, well, it’s right there in the title. 

That’s why I’m delighted to say that The Man in the High Castle will end after its fourth season, as you can see by watching this new trailer. 

(13) PAYING IT FORWARD. Award-winning and best-selling paranormal romance writer Nalini Singh wants to send a New Zealand first-timer to the Romance Writers of NZ con.

(14) CROSS-GENRE ROMANCE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast interviews Jeffe Kennedy: “SFFMP 221: Whether Awards Are Worth Trying for, Marketing Fantasy Romance, and Being Active in SFWA and RWA”. Among the many questions covered: “How much ‘romance’ has to be in a story for it to be considered sci-fi or fantasy romance?”

This week, we chatted with RITA award-winning fantasy romance author Jeffe Kennedy. She started her career writing non-fiction, shifted to romance and fantasy romance with traditional publishing, and now does some self-publishing as well. We asked her about whether awards are worth trying for, her thoughts on the professional organizations SFWA and RWA, and what she’s tried and liked for marketing over the years.

(15) SKYLARK THANKS. The full text of Melinda Snodgrass’ 2019 Skylark Memorial Award acceptance speech has been posted to her blog – click the link.

(16) SWEET SCREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS: Over at Featured Futures, Jason has incorporated Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Eleven into the “Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2018 Stories, Links)”.

Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, BASFF, Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, Shearman/Kelly, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals are announced, they will be combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.

(17) SHED A TEAR. At Quick Sip Reviews, Charles Payseur rolls out his next award: “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The “There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF”.

…I’m something of an emotive reader, which means that there are times when reading that a story just hits me right in the feels and I need to take a moment to recover. These are stories that, for me, are defined most by their emotional weight. By the impact they have, the ability to completely destroy all the careful emotional shields we use to keep the rest of the world at bay. These are the stories that pry open the shell of control I try surround myself in and leave me little more than a blubbering mess. So joining me in smiling through the tears and celebrating this year’s winners!

(18) BUZZ. “Scientists Release Controversial Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In High-Security Lab”NPR has the story, a look at the pros and cons.

Scientists have launched a major new phase in the testing of a controversial genetically modified organism: a mosquito designed to quickly spread a genetic mutation lethal to its own species, NPR has learned.

For the first time, researchers have begun large-scale releases of the engineered insects, into a high-security laboratory in Terni, Italy.

“This will really be a breakthrough experiment,” says Ruth Mueller, an entomologist who runs the lab. “It’s a historic moment.”

The goal is to see if the mosquitoes could eventually provide a powerful new weapon to help eradicate malaria in Africa, where most cases occur.

(19) SFF AND THE ACADEMY. BBC’s “Oscars 2019: 17 quirky facts about this year’s Academy Awards” includes some genre-relevant items:

10. In 2008, The Dark Knight helped prompt an Oscars rule change, which expanded the best picture category from five nominees to as many as 10.

It was hoped this would allow for more blockbuster superhero films (i.e. movies the public actually go to see) to be acknowledged.

However, it’s taken a decade for a superhero film to actually benefit from this rule change – in the shape of this year’s nomination for Black Panther.

12. Incredibles 2 is nominated for best animated feature this year.

But sequels have rarely won in this category since the Oscars introduced it in 2001.

The last one that did was 2010’s Toy Story 3. (Despite its misleading title, 2014’s Big Hero 6 wasn’t a sequel.)

(20) BACK TO THE HANGAR. The Hollywood Reporter has more on the cancellation of Nightflyers.

Nightflyers will not fly again for Syfy. The NBCUniversal-owned cable network has opted to cancel the expensive space drama based on the George R.R. Martin novella after one season. The cancellation arrives as one of its leads just booked a series regular role in a broadcast pilot.

Nightflyers was, without question, a big swing for Syfy….

In a bid to eventize Nightflyers, Syfy set a binge model and released the entire series on Dec. 2 on its digital platforms and aired the series over 10 straight nights on its linear network. The series hit Netflix on Feb. 1 and, unlike the breakout success that became LIfetime’s You, did not break out. The Dec. 13 season finale — which now doubles as a series finale — drew just 420,000 live viewers (down from 623,000 for the premiere).

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Smash and Grab on Youtube is a Pixar film by Brian Larsen about two robots who would rather play than perform their menial jobs.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Steve Green, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Steve Davidson, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Andrew, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]